RAPID testing of patients in hospitals would be a "game changer" in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Professor John Wright, an epidemiologist and director of the Bradford Institute of Health Research, based at the Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) spoke of the challenges faced in the latest episode of The NHS Front Line on BBC Four.

In a series of recordings, he has given an insight into the BRI's frontline response to the coronavirus crisis from before the country was placed into lockdown.

The latest episode, released earlier this week, highlights how it is "impossible in practice" to tell who has and hasn't got the disease.

While the hospital has been redesigned to keep Covid and non-Covid patients apart, there is not currently a testing system which delivers results within hours.

Professor John Wright said: “This is a conundrum in the hospital at the moment. We are admitting surgical patients and orthopaedic patients and others and we just don’t know whether they’ve got Covid, particularly when they’re acute.”

He said point of care testing would be the "game changer" and told the programme: "One of the really tricky things we face in the hospital at the moment is knowing who has Covid and who hasn't and for patients coming in with clear Covid, we can put them in the red zones, but for patients coming in with other conditions, it can be a bit messy."

In discussion with the programme's presenter, Winifred Robinson, Prof Wright, he said a dilemma of Covid-19 is knowing whether the infection has come from within the hospital or the community.

He said: "As we get better, as the numbers drop down and we do more contact tracing, we'll be able to get a much clearer pathway as to where they are coming from, where the index cases are coming from."

Prof Wright said in the 'red zones', the hospital is very good at PPE and protection - and it has "improved dramatically" over the last 10 weeks.

He added: "I think the challenge has been our green wards where we're getting patients who are asymptomatic and coming in and shedding the virus and we're swabbing them, but some of the swabs will be false negatives and sometimes it will be too early. So potentially people are still bringing it into green areas where our doctors and nurses and physiotherapists and clinicians are then picking it up and there's a risk of then spread from patient to patient, but also from professional to patient."

Prof Wright said there is different phases in the recovery.

He told the programme: "One is to get better testing, rapid point of care testing, so for example when a patient comes in to hospital we can test within a few minutes whether he or she has Covid-19. That's a really fundamental part of infection control and also bringing back the trust in the health services which I think has lost a little bit. For active cases, I think we will come up with good treatments, but ultimately, as always in medicine, we want to prevent."

He added: "I think the point of care testing will come within weeks, I think the effective treatments will come within months, I think the contact tracing will have a sort of bumpy introduction while we try and get on top of it and I think that will be several months before we get that right. And the vaccine, I've always said we've got be cautious about this because we're not very good at vaccines for viruses, for some viruses, and this could take some time, so a year/18 months."