September 17, 2020 @ 14:44 by Steven Hugill
More than 1000 North East jobs are set to be created in a multi-million-pound medical development aimed at combating COVID-19.
Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle City Council have announced plans to create a Lighthouse Laboratory and COVID-19 hub in the region.
Bosses say the Gateshead-based laboratory, expected to launch in December, will have capacity to process up to 80,000 tests every day for patients across the North East, north Cumbria, Yorkshire and the Humber.
They say the Baltic Park venture, approved by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, will create 1100 public sector jobs on Tyneside.
In addition to the laboratory, a COVID-19 innovation hub will also operate from Newcastle Helix.
Focused on developing new approaches for the next stage of science around coronavirus, officials say the base will link testing and results into clinical data systems used by hospitals and be part of the national Test and Trace service.
The project is a partnership between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle City Council, alongside public health teams, local universities and industry.
Dame Jackie Daniel, Newcastle Hospitals Trust chief executive, said: “This is an exciting and important investment in the North East.
“The collective effort in combating the pandemic to date has been outstanding and owes much to the excellence of services, partnership working and also the public playing their part in minimising the spread of the virus.
“We know testing and tracing will continue to be a key pillar of the national strategy to protect the NHS and save lives, as well as supporting the economy.
“Our integrated COVID hub will be a major step in ensuring we are in the strongest position to deal with the ongoing pressures of the pandemic.”
As one of 11 Good Practice Network councils contributing to national thinking on testing and data policies, Newcastle City Council has worked closely with Newcastle Hospitals to develop the proposal for the laboratory.
Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Throughout this pandemic the strength of the partnerships has shone brightly and the co-operation between our hospitals, council and universities has seen this innovative plan develop quickly.
“Crucially, this investment will bring 1100 high-quality jobs to Tyneside; once again highlighting that Newcastle is a modern, digital first city that has world-class infrastructure, talent and technology to deliver these developments.
“We know there are difficult times ahead and many sectors across the region will be impacted; providing new opportunities to our residents and investment in the city are key aspects of our recovery from the pandemic.
“Newcastle is an ambitious, resilient city and announcements like this will help it bounce back from the pandemic.”
Eugene Milne, Newcastle’s director of public health, added: “This new facility will bring together the expertise of public health, the NHS and our universities.
“The work done here will play a critical role not only in dealing with COVID-19, but also to support work to identify, prevent and deal with any future pandemics.”