Rapid testing in Boston

Set up two ‘rapid’ community testing sites in Boston to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in residents who are asymptomatic.

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

  • Two community testing sites to run for all residents of the Borough of Boston for four weeks
  • Council worked closely with Community Leaders to gauge engagement tactics
  • In the first four days 2,094 residents got tested, 25 of those tested positive
  • Extensive engagement and support from businesses, stakeholders and community leaders
  • Continued focus and development on customer journey, experience and support – before, during and after
  • A best practice model and a blueprint for future community engagement and communications

What was done?

Over the Christmas period, Boston Borough Council working with Lincolnshire County Council’s Public Health team and the Department of Health and Social Care set up two ‘Rapid’ Community Testing sites in Boston to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in residents who are asymptomatic. 

Site location was a key consideration to maximise take up. Informed by geographical and public health data, a shortlist of sites was assessed in line with site specification criteria. To have the sites based at locations that were known in and trusted by the community was key.  
The testing sites (vacant school and college sites) opened on Monday 18 January 2021 initially for four weeks.

The sites located at Peter Paine Performance Centre, and Tollfield Campus Haven High are both open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week to all residents of the borough over the age of 16 years.

As a Borough wide testing programme in a diverse community, encouraging engagement and take up was key. We have written to all households and businesses in the Borough to invite them along for a test even if they feel perfectly fine. We have stated that anyone who is however displaying Covid-19 symptoms then they must stay home and book a PCR test via the Government testing website at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

We embraced the opportunity to maximise opportunities for staffing this project and have been creative in how we approached this, this included redeploying council staff seeking support from our partners and using Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue personal.

Much communications and engagement was used in the run up to getting this sites open and running smoothly. From community champion and elected member briefing sessions, to letter drops to all residents in the Borough and businesses, social media content created in eight different languages to allow us to reach the whole of our community and a dedicated web page www.mybostonuk.com/rapidtesting with a resource library for all to download with updated information as required.

There is also ongoing flyer drops to properties in the borough each week with local reminders out and about including banners, bollard covers and road signs in each of these areas.
On opening day we also created a process video for our residents to make them at ease before arriving on site for a test.

Why we need this testing?

Boston Borough was identified as a location that would benefit from such Enhanced Community Testing to help drive down the rate of Covid-19 in the community.  

Around one in three people who are infected with Covid-19 have no symptoms, so could be spreading the infection without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those with Covid-19 but showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly and breaking chains of transmission 

The Borough Council and its partners are leading on the programme and are engaging and energising the community to take part, as this is key to its success.  The programme is aimed to reach circa 42,000 people over a four week period. The testing locations were determined based on evidence and to enable fair access to residents across the Borough and equal proximity to the Cattle Market PCR testing site.

Together we will beat Covid-19. Whether you have symptoms or not, do your bit and have your free Covid-19 test now

Cllr Martin Griggs, Portfolio holder for Communities at Boston Borough Council, said: “Boston and partners have done so well to pull all of this together in such a small timeframe. By being able to offer large scale symptom-free testing to all of our residents we will hopefully be able to keep the rate of infection down, protect our most vulnerable and stop our health services from being overwhelmed."

David Clarke, Lincolnshire County Council’s Public Health Programme Manager, said: “With the sharp rise in cases before the Christmas period, community testing rolled out to all of the population of Boston would assist attempts to reduce this rate over time. It was and remains vital that as many over 16's as possible engage with the programme, as this will identify those who are asymptomatic and support them to isolate, this breaks the onward chain of transmission and in turn should reduce the overall case rates seen across Boston and Lincolnshire".

  • Extensive engagement and support from businesses, stakeholders and community leaders
  • Continued focus and development on customer journey, experience and support – before, during and after
  • A fundamental principle of this project was to offer wrap around support and sign posting for residents that tested positive. From a public health population perspective we wanted to use this as an opportunity to apply a local offer of support with Contact Tracing, diluted from the national offer which would support anyone who is positive at the earliest opportunity to try to stop the spread. The extended offer of LFT would be offered to anyone in close contact with positive cases, helping to expand the reach and further help reduce the infection rates.
  • We wanted to ensure we had a good grasp on the effectiveness of the project and in order to do this we needed visibility of exactly what was happening from the offset. With this in mind we could identify any issues, adapt, change and put a process in place at the earliest opportunity. This approach proved to be a wise investment as very early we noticed that those without mobiles could not register for a test, leaving some of the most vulnerable without access to this service.
  • Staff have worked at pace to rectify this and within 24 hours tested out a process which has been further developed and now ensures no person is unable to register for a test, equally ensuring no data protection or GDPR breeches occur. This project has so far highlighted that there is a large proportion of the local population at risk of inequalities due to lack of digital connection.
  • This project is a great example of collaboration and using a mixed skills set of various staff to deliver messages, we sought extra staffing personnel and struck gold with the opportunity to use Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue colleagues on the two sites in Boston. The fire crew have worked from 8am till 8pm on each site from the start of the project offering public health messages about the early contact tracing support offer.
  • Members of the public, local residents and staff have all embraced their presence at these sites and have willingly engaged with them. We have had wonderful comments from some of the older population whom have been shielding for a number of months stating how lovely it is to see a friendly face and offer of support should they test positive.
  • A best practice model and a blueprint for future community engagement and communications.

Going forward

We will continue throughout this period to push out the messages to all residents encouraging them to pop along and get a test. We have staff targeting different areas of the borough each week putting out banner, bollard covers, and other signage and flyer dropping in these areas also. 

We are engaging with the harder to reach groups including the migrant community with social media posting in various languages and through employers, agencies and transport providers. Working with social groups, sports groups, community workers, faith groups, parish councils, educations provider and housing providers using a dynamic and collaborative process responding to public health data received.

As one of 60 areas to receive an allocation of Government community champions funding we are already using what we have learned and the feedback from our community to leaders to help us to expand our communications and engagement programme for the future.