Case study: COVID-19 testing programme

The challenge

  • Researchers in Hampshire were awarded funding to pilot a no-swab saliva test for COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The programme needed to be operational as rapidly as possible, bringing together a team borrowed at short notice from health, education and local government – with everyone working remotely.
  • A full suite of communications was required to explain the pilot to participants, persuade them to take part, guide them through the registration process and ensure that they took their tests correctly and understood their results.
  • A range of other stakeholders needed to be engaged and informed throughout the pilot, including the leadership teams within participating organisations (schools, care homes, a city council and a university) and local elected representatives.

The solution

  • Working with a talented colleague, I produced a detailed communications timeline, a list of requirements, a map of the many dependencies and a thorough sign-off process.
  • Starting with the timeline meant that I could work backwards and share with the team what information was going to be required to produce all the necessary collateral (invitation letters, instruction leaflets, label sheets, website content and FAQs for an enquiries team to refer to).
  • I sat on the operational board for the programme, which met daily, which meant I could contribute to discussions across all aspects of the programme including systems and logistics.
  • I also had a daily meeting with communications partners from across the programme to discuss media requests and external stakeholder engagement.

The result

  • We built a complicated service from the ground up in a matter of weeks.
  • All communications materials were delivered on time and helped to facilitate a successful pilot, which provided vital information about how the saliva testing process could be refined.
  • An expanded second pilot was approved and ran through the autumn of 2020.
  • We continually adapted the communications throughout this nine month process, responding to participant feedback, alterations to the testing process and changing public sentiment about the pandemic.
  • The programme then received further funding to expand massively across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, led by an NHS trust. I consulted on this transition to new management.

“It was a pleasure working with you. You were ahead of the game with everything. By the time I’d asked for something you had already produced a draft. I hope we have many more opportunities to work with you.”

– COVID-19 saliva testing programme colleague