Coronavirus testing – Behind the scenes

Coronavirus testing has been a focus of discussion in the media for some time now. The general public alike are understandably keen to know if, how and when they can access a test.

Of course, putting in place the systems to ensure that everyone in Wales who needs a test can access one is a huge logistical challenge. And it’s one that our Testing Cell has been working on tirelessly over the past several weeks.

Staff from across Improvement Cymru, Microbiology, our Screening Division as well as our Finance, Procurement and Planning teams have been working together to help scale up Wales’ testing capacity in support of Welsh Government’s ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy.

Key areas of work have included:

  • Increasing capacity in our labs so that we can process more tests
  • Supporting the local health boards to increase their sampling capacity by opening mass testing sites in locations across Wales
  • Working with the military to deploy mobile testing units across Wales
  • Operating the drive-through testing site at Cardiff City Stadium
  • Working with UK Government, Welsh Government and industry partners to put systems in place for homes testing and online test booking

Dr John Boulton, Director of NHS Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, heads up the Testing Cell. He said: “It’s been a real joint effort, both among teams within Public Health Wales but also with a whole range external partners, including UK Government, Welsh Government, local health boards, the military, and industry partners.

“Everyone involved has shown such commitment to the cause. We’ve all had to take on new roles, step outside our comfort zones and develop

new skills and techniques, all within a fast-paced and continuously changing environment.

“It’s been intense, but everyone has been 100% focused on what we need to do – put in place the testing capacity we need for the people of Wales.”

Jonathan Evans, Operational Manager and Lead Biomedical Scientist (Virology), has been leading the testing team at our UHW lab. He said: “Over the past few months we have had to develop new and wonderful ways of working. The number of changes we have had to implement in such a short space of time is nothing short of phenomenal.

“One thing that has remained constant throughout though, is our patient- centred approach. We’ve been imagining that each sample tested is for a relative or loved one – that really helps focus the mind on the importance and impact of our work”.

In order to help shine a light on the team’s efforts, over the past few weeks, the Communications Team has been working closely with journalists at BBC Wales to put together a news item offering a behind the scenes look at what is being done to scale up Wales’ testing capacity.

The aim is to give the general public an insight into the hard work that’s being carried out, but to also highlight the people and stories behind these efforts.

The item includes interviews with Dr John Boulton and Jonathan Evans, as well as staff from Aneurin Bevan University Health Board who are managing the Rodney Parade mass testing site which our Testing Cell helped set up. Welsh speakers can also watch Dr Eleri Davies’ interview on testing on Newyddion.

We hope it goes some way to recognise the fantastic work of all those involved – and that it also serves as a reminder to all our staff, whatever your role in our COVID-19 response, of the huge impact that your work has on the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales.

The item airs on Thursday 28 May on BBC Wales Today, BBC 1 Wales from 6.30 pm and on Newyddion, S4C from 7.30pm. Content will also appear across BBC Wales’ online and radio channels.