North East Connected

Coming out of lockdown means ramping up Covid testing

By Marta Kalas, Thomson Screening

The government announced plans this week for a gradual approach for relaxing lockdown restrictions. Scaling up testing is going to be a key element in achieving this (alongside ongoing vaccinations) . This increased testing will affect a whole range of organisations: schools, universities, businesses, care homes.

The key to the successful scale up of testing is for organisations to regard it as something that works for them – not just the government or NHS Test & Trace. Most organisations (whether businesses, schools, care homes, or universities) are happy to do their part, but they also want the benefits, such as better visibility of their results. And they want it to be easy, without a huge extra administrative burden.

Currently schools, in particular, are finding the extra administration of test results a great barrier to large scale activity. If this is not fixed, there is a risk that organisations will do only the minimum necessary. The balance needs to change if they are to embrace more testing.

The problem is that NHS Test & Trace expects the information from this testing activity to be fed into its system, but this isn’t quick or simple, and nor does it benefit the organisations themselves.

Most organisations keep digital records already, so emphasis needs to be placed on ease of management and on allowing digital information flows instead of direct manual data entry – which is slow and prone to error.

Without a system they can readily use, many organisations resort to using Excel (or similar spreadsheets) to manage their test records. There is a risk of data losses and headlines very similar to previous excel related disasters, like losing records, and data not being secure. They need something that is quick and simple to use, easy to set up and won’t cost the Earth. The solution needs to embrace ‘point click’ recording and direct bulk upload of data.

Fortunately, Innovate UK, foresaw this problem as early as last summer and as part of its Smart Projects, it funded the development of just such a system by Thomson Screening.

SchoolScreener has been tested with a large number of schools and is its SME version, WorkScreener COVID Manager is also ready to roll out to the rest of the economy.

This is a great example of foresight by Innovate UK and the agility of small businesses supporting the COVID effort, bringing in relevant experience from similar (but not directly related) fields. Without this many businesses and schools would struggle to manage their testing administration.


Marta Kalas is co-founder of Thomson Screening, which provides software to automate and manage health screening within schools and workplaces. Its technology platforms, ‘SchoolScreener’ and ‘WorkScreener COVID Manager’ deliver automated and scalable administration of large scale COVID-19 testing including staff/patient feedback and outcome analytics.




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