Lancashire plans for expansion of coronavirus testing

Lancashire is planning to rapidly increase the rate of coronavirus testing being carried out in the county – by developing mobile facilities.

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 10:06 am

Last week, a drive-through test centre was set up in the grounds of Preston’s College, which will initially prioritise NHS staff.

However, following a successful trial in Blackpool over the weekend, plans are now being developed to expand testing capability in communities across Lancashire – particularly by providing access for key workers in the care sector who may also benefit from a test, but might find it difficult to access a centrally-located hub.

Deputy chief constable Terry Woods, Gold Command of the Lancashire Resilience Forum – the organisation which is co-ordinating the county’s response to Covid-19 – said Lancashire had more capacity for testing than was currently being used.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Covid testing facilities in Lancashire could soon be going mobile, so that people needing them do not have to rely on having a car (image: Ben Stansall via Getty Images)

“The numbers of tests are growing everyday – the challenge locally is getting the right people to be tested.

“A lot of care home staff don’t have access to vehicles and tend to work in their community – so we are looking at trying to get the testing to more local bases, through different means,” DCC Woods revealed.

“We have got police and military planners [working] to make sure we get the best use of that testing capacity that’s due to come online.

“But the facility at Preston’s College is a huge boost – there is real benefit in the drive-through facilities because you can get a lot more done.”

However, DCC Woods said that the successful trial of mobile testing in Blackpool would continue and be expanded elsewhere soon.

He added that, ultimately, the hope was to be able to roll out testing to try to target ‘micro-outbreaks’ of Covid-19 in communities – as advocated by Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health Dominic Harrison – but said that the county was “not there yet” and that the priority at the moment remains ensuring that workforces in key sectors are able to go to work.

"If the care system is challenged in any way or falls over, the hospital occupancy rate is going to be massively affected. [It] is a massive part of the UK’s response to this virus - a huge part of the puzzle.

"If you can keep the care system flowing, that means beds can be generated in hopsitals, which means if you get critically ill, there is more chance of survival.

"Testing is going to go up and up – it’s part of the exit [strategy to leave lockdown]. It’s not all about national government, it’s about what we do as well," DCC Woods said.

The government recently pledged access to coronavirus testing for all social care staff who need it, having initially focussed only on NHS workers.