Community testing in Calderdale

Calderdale started piloting the use of lateral flow tests in education settings at the start of December. 

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This is part of a series of case-studies published on 15 January 2021. 

  • Pilot testing run in schools for staff and pupils 
  • School nurses used to train schools in using the tests 
  • Two rapid testing centres opening soon to target high-risk workers 

What was done? 

Calderdale started piloting the use of lateral flow tests in education settings at the start of December.  

Staff at two primary schools have been doing regular testing, while three secondary schools and a local college have used them on a combination of staff and pupils.  

One school has prioritised years 11 and 13 – year groups which are due to take exams in the summer. They are asked to take twice-weekly tests.  

Strategic Operational Manager Cliff Dunbavin said: “We know it has been circulating in schools – significant numbers are being asked to isolate so we hope this will break those chains of transmission and really help to keep on top of outbreaks in schools.

We have a well-established and proven local contact tracing service that has capacity to pick up these cases.”  

 

Lessons learned 

The council is still evaluating the impact of the pilot. But with the government rolling out rapid testing at the start of term next year the learning will be invaluable for then. 

One of the key lessons though has been the importance of providing schools with support and training on how to use the kits. 

School nurses were used to train the staff in how to use the tests, while a video and factsheet has been produced reminding them of the basics.  

Mr Dunbavin said: “It is important if you are going to do this that they are used properly. That has been our key message to the schools and other settings. The tests are easy to use, but it is important to be confident and clear about how they are carried out. 

“We hope going forward the schools that have done the testing can help support other schools as there is a limit to how much school nurses can do.”  

Next steps 

The council is also in the process of setting up rapid testing centres, which will be open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Two are being established – one a drive-thru facility at an underutilised health centre in the middle of Halifax and another at a local college.  

The council is redeploying staff to become test operatives. High-risk workers will be invited in for appointments.  

Mr Dunbavin said: “We are going to target jobs like taxi drivers, driving instructors, and workplaces where social distancing is difficult to maintain. We will tailor our offer dependant on the setting. 

“We know from setting up the initial booking site that that there was some reluctance to come forward. It was linked to people concerned about getting paid and struggle accessing the £500 support payments. When promoting our offer, we will be clear up front the support people will receive should they be required to self-isolate and will support people from day one. 

“We are also working with the other West Yorkshire local authorities to offer testing to bus drivers and train drivers, as they work across the region. Leeds is coordinating this, and we are all send a portion of our allocation to them to cover this.”