London Met scientist volunteering to expand COVID-19 testing

Dr Sheelagh Heugh will use her expertise to help Public Health England with the expansion of the COVID-19 testing regime, with the support of London Met.

Date: 26 March 2020

London Met’s Associate Professor Sheelagh Heugh is volunteering with Public Health England (PHE), where she will use her expertise to help with the expansion of the COVID-19 testing regime.

Heugh is principal lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry, Haematology and Transfusion Science, Head of Student Experience and Academic Outcomes, and a noted expert in the fields of haematology and transfusion science, medical microbiology, and clinical biochemistry and cellular pathology. With the support of the University, Heugh will be alternate her duties at London Met with volunteering for PHE every other week, and will be fully paid by London Met throughout this period.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has noted the importance of expanding testing in the efforts to combat the novel coronavirus, which was recently declared a global pandemic. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO said, “we have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.”

Large-scale testing allows health services to quickly identify who has the disease and to make the necessary arrangements for their care. It means that known cases can be isolated, preventing those who are infected from coming into contact with others. This slows the rate of transmission in the population, helps avoid sudden spikes in new patients and can prevent the overall number of cases from rising.

Effective testing programmes also allow governments to understand the prevalence of COVID-19 and its evolution. Health authorities can use the results tests to slow the spread of the disease and make evidence-based decisions to inform strategy going forward.

Effective testing and quarantine measures may also relieve pressure on healthcare providers, which can quickly become overwhelmed as demand surges for respirators and other critical lifesaving equipment.

Dr Sheelagh Heugh