New COVID-19 lateral flow testing pilot starts in Blackpool

Posted on Friday 27th November 2020

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The pilot aims to help protect those at highest risk and provide vital information to help inform further rollout of the mass testing technology in future. It is part of the government’s plan to develop new technologies which will safely enable the country to go about life as normally as possible.

  • Testing pilots to begin this week at Park Community Academy and at emergency housing managed by Blackpool Coastal Housing, to help protect people most at risk 
  • Partnership between Park Community Academy, Blackpool Coastal Housing, Blackpool Council and our providers Fylde Coast Medical Services and Department of Health and Social Care to trial lateral flow testing, to work towards returning life to as normal as possible
  • Voluntary testing of eligible adults

A pilot of lateral flow testing is launching at Park Community Academy, (part of the Sea View Trust), and at emergency housing managed by Blackpool Coastal Housing, as part of the government’s UK-wide continuing drive to increase the availability of testing.

From this week Blackpool Council with provider partner Fylde Coast Medical services will be carrying out voluntary lateral flow testing on eligible adults. These tests are not open to the general public and cannot be booked.

Lateral flow antigen tests are a new kind of technology that could be used to test a higher proportion of asymptomatic people, better enabling us to identify and isolate more people who are at high likelihood of spreading the virus, and break the chain of transmission. 

Extensive clinical evaluation from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) are accurate and sensitive to be deployed for mass testing, including for asymptomatic people. 

We are working with the Department of Health and Social Care to identify how to best utilise this new technology at scale through a series of different field tests and pilots.

LFTs are rapid turnaround tests that can process COVID-19 samples on site without the need for laboratory equipment, with most generating results in under half an hour.

Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate and to undertake a confirmatory test using the normal channels.

Use of multiple new testing technologies could significantly improve the detection of positive cases, so people can isolate themselves and prevent the spread of the disease.

Piloting these technologies will help the government to better understand where to best use these technologies and how they can be operationalised in the real world; to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help enable us to go back to as normal a way of life as possible.

Anyone testing positive for the virus in England will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to help them track their contacts. This will help people to identify who they may have been in close contact with, protecting others from further transmission. Close contacts of those testing positive will also hear from NHS Test and Trace, asking them to stay at home for 14 days to prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus. They will be advised to also book a test if they develop symptoms. 

Utilising new technologies, such as Lateral Flow Testing, will be key to the government’s plans to rollout mass testing -which means testing large numbers of people in a short period of time, with test results made available quickly, even on the spot. 

Mass testing will give people in environments such as hospitals, schools, universities and workplaces rapid reassurance that they are not infected, or allow them to isolate more quickly if they are.

Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health at Blackpool Council said:

“We are keen to roll out these pilots in Blackpool for Lateral Flow testing and are really grateful to our partners who have come forward to take part.

“The information that is provided from these pilots will help protect the most vulnerable in our society by finding and isolating those that are asymptomatic.

“It will also provide vital information back to central government which will help the fight against this virus.

“No one is more keen to see our town, our economy and our communities go back to a normal a life as possible. Being involved in Lateral Flow testing is one way we can head towards doing this.

“I would urge any other organisation who are interested in taking part in a testing trial with us to please get in touch.”

Headteacher Keith Berry at Park Community Academy said:

“We are pleased to be able to be involved in this trail. We have 110 staff at Park School and testing will take place of staff on a voluntary basis.

“Many of our children are vulnerable and feel that by taking a proactive approach can try to protect them and our school community as much as we possibly can.

“If we can identify and isolate people quickly who have COVID 19, then we are doing our very best to break the chain of the virus, protect everyone and make our school as safe as possible as Christmas approaches, and I am fully supportive of that.”   

Dionne Nicholson, Resettlement Services Manager at Blackpool Coastal Housing said:

“We are pleased to be taking part in this trial – we have developed safe systems for our services over the last 7 months, but this pilot will help make our accommodation a safer place to live and work.

“Many of our residents have underlying health conditions and are in a high risk category. By taking part in this trial we hope to be able to minimise the risk to them and play our part in controlling this virus.” 

Health Minister Lord Bethell said:

“We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter COVID-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.

“Innovations such as Lateral Flow testing hold the key to the next phase of our ambition to see mass, rapid testing available to people across the country. 

“I’m delighted that Blackpool Council are working with us to pilot the latest technology and I look forward to seeing the results.”

Posted on Friday 27th November 2020

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