test staff for COVID-19
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Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) has designed, set-up and trialled a fully-electronic system to test staff for COVID-19

The reconfiguration of the Inform Sexual Health system took just one day to complete and is now playing a vital role in the Trust’s management and containment of COVID-19.

The process starts when a member of staff, or their household contacts, become symptomatic. When they report their absence, a designated person uses a triage system of questions and are advised to call the sexual health team’s call centre to book an appointment, if the criteria are met.

Demographic details, along with area of work, vehicle registration and colour information are inputted into the system and patients are then given an appointment based on availability. All appointments will be issued with automated SMS confirmations.

Key to integrating existing sexual health and laboratory IT systems was the Data and Systems Manager for Nottingham Integrated Sexual Health service, Howard Gees, and the IT Manager of the pathology laboratory at NUH, Karim Premji.

Howard explains “the Trust was in a fortunate position as the Sexual Health service has previously customised the Inform system to create a new organisation within the software to accommodate HIV patients, so the service had a solid blueprint to work with to fulfil the COVID-19 testing brief.”

The process

The system assigns patients to one of three zones within the sexual health clinic’s car park where a staff member prints off a barcoded label for swab kits. The use of barcodes has improved laboratory capacity and reduced errors and the fully-electronic management to test staff has improved the efficiency of the turn-around of results.

When patients arrive, a member of the security team reconciles the vehicle registration with the appointment on the system, before directing the vehicle to the appropriate zone.

The staff member must remain in their car and wind down their window while their details are checked. A sexual health nurse will then take a swab before the test is complete.

The average test process takes just 95 seconds.


Kits are then sent to the Trust’s laboratory for same-day processing and results are returned to the system from the laboratory. A nurse will then check the results and generate an automated SMS notification to all staff or household contacts immediately.

This level of efficiency is especially helpful for testing of household contacts, as staff who are well themselves can usually return to work within 48 hours when their contacts’ test is negative.

Dr Ruth Taylor, head of NUH’s Sexual Health services, states: “the agility of this testing development would not have been possible were it not for the existing sophisticated yet user-friendly design architecture of the Inform system and the support from the people behind the products at Inform, who continuously go above and beyond to support the needs of our staff and patients.”

Susan Bunn, Inform Health’s Commercial Director, believes that Sexual Health services are perfectly placed to bolster NHS staff testing for COVID-19 and was pleased to support NUH’s reconfiguration free of charge.

Susan comments: “What NUH NHS Trust has achieved, and in such a short timeframe, demonstrates how Sexual Health services have the experience and capabilities needed – experience of testing for infectious diseases, laboratory integrations, automated notification methods and the ability to contact trace – to take up the mantle and redeploy systems and expertise to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

“The dedication of the teams and, in particular, Howard Gees’ talented and tenacious approach to adapting the Inform system, while working collaboratively with our developers, has created a fast, accurate, efficient and fully-electronic method of managing COVID-19 testing for NHS staff.

“We’re keen to lend our support to any other customers, inspired by NUH’s efforts, who would be interested in creating the same effective solution for their own staff testing services.”


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