HEALTH chiefs locally have raised concerns about the accuracy of antibody tests, echoing those of leading experts.

Covid-19 antibody tests are designed to tell whether a person has had the illness in the past.

The government has purchased 10 million test kits, with the first phase of the testing programme assessing the NHS and care workers.

But speaking at a board meeting of Hampshire Hospitals directors on June 25, chief medical officer at the trust Lara Alloway raised concern about the testing.

She said: “There is a lot of concern as to the accuracy and the amount of information we take from this.

“So we know we've had a number of staff who have had positive Covid swabs who have been antibody tested negative.

“We have been consistent with our staff and patients, but it shouldn’t make anyone behave any differently because we just don’t know what the implications are and there are concerns around accuracy.”

Dr Alloway added: “We have been using it more as a way of understanding the number people who have had contact with the infection but there are some questions now that are coming through.”

Hampshire Chronicle:

So far the trust has carried out over 3,500 antibody tests, with 13 per cent of those getting a positive result.

It comes as a letter from academics and clinicians, published in The BMJ, raises concerns about the performance of the tests, the clinical reasoning for them and the cost.

"We are writing to express concerns over aspects of the establishment of SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing in England," the team of experts wrote.

"NHS England and NHS Improvement wrote to NHS trusts and pathology networks on 25 May 2020, asking them to offer antibody testing at short notice and ramp up capacity to thousands of samples a day.

"We have three concerns about the request. Firstly, there is no specific clinical indication for the test on an individual basis. Secondly, the performance of these assays has not yet been assessed to the standard typically required of a novel test. And thirdly, the resource implications are not considered."

They said that a positive or negative test result would not alter the management of a patient and added that a positive result "does not indicate immunity".

Overall Hampshire Hospitals have carried out over 12,000 coronavirus tests of which 1,484 were positive.

Chief executive Alex Whitfield said: “When I look at the Covid tests that we have done, over the last 10 days we have run over 2,000 tests and only three of those have been positive so we have definitely seen a drop off of Covid prevalence around the community and in the hospital.

“We are continuing to test around 150 to 280 people a day for Covid and we will keep doing that.”