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24 March 2021

New North East Lighthouse laboratory strengthens the fight against Covid-19

A new, high capacity Covid-19 Lighthouse laboratory has now opened at Baltic Park in Gateshead, as part of the NHS Test and Trace programme.

The purpose-built facility will initially serve the north east, Cumbria, Yorkshire and Humberside, as part of a national network of Covid testing laboratories, with potential to receive swabs from further afield.

Its creation has led to hundreds of new public sector jobs.

Managed by The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the laboratory houses state-of-the-art equipment and provides an important addition to the regional infrastructure for testing.

The trust's chief executive, Dame Jackie Daniel, said:

"The Department of Health and Social Care's investment in this new Lighthouse laboratory provides a valuable resource for our region, supporting in the fight against this pandemic and strengthening our resilience even further.

"The facility was built by partners pulling together and puts us in a stronger position to manage and control the virus. It is testimony to the collaborative approach we have taken to tackling Covid-19.

"All involved have worked very hard and my deepest thanks go to everyone who has played a part."

NHS teams and construction contractors have worked around the clock to build the laboratory, with around half the budget spent with local small and medium-sized businesses.

Garry Hope, regional managing director, Robertson Construction, said:

"As the main contractor responsible for the delivery of the lab, we are proud to play a small part in enabling the trust to continue its hard work to combat the virus.

"The speed of delivery has been made possible through the excellent working relationships that we have with Newcastle hospitals and our local supply chain partners, many of which are based within a mile of the project.

"Our site teams have worked 24/7 and are honoured to have been able to make a contribution."

The Lighthouse laboratory is part of the integrated Covid hub for the north east, which places the region at the forefront of managing the virus, through:

  • providing state-of-the-art testing capacity, via the new Lighthouse lab

  • strengthening coordination between local authorities and the health service, including sharing more data, insight and resources to manage outbreaks

  • accelerating new methods of Covid-19 testing – led by a new innovation lab connecting NHS, industry and universities.