The Covid-19 pandemic required a national effort to upscale laboratory facilities to meet the testing challenge. AI Digital played a key role in helping to establish testing capacity and the strategy to support the long-term sustainability of the four national testing sites. Here is how…

Four testing laboratories were established across England and Scotland as part of the UK Governments Covid-19 testing strategy. These sites were in Milton Keynes, Alderley Park, Glasgow and Cambridge.

To meet the urgent demand for ‘at scale’ Covid-19 testing these sites were set up within incredibly short timescales of between 3-5 weeks. Key to the success of setting up these labs was the requisition of a significant amount of scientific lab equipment and recruitment of hundreds of experienced scientists and laboratory workers from scientific and research organisations across the country.

This approach allowed the Labs to quickly become operational and undertake large scale testing. However, as lockdown started to ease, the demand from donor organisations grew for the return of their equipment and staff. Therefore, a longer-term sustainability strategy was required to safeguard testing capacity.

Due to AI Digital’s involvement in supporting the setup of the UK Biocentre’s Covid-19 testing operation, we were asked to provide the project management for this national testing sustainability project.

The scope of this project included the following workstreams:

  1. Equipment: Identifying and replacing all equipment requisitioned by the government and transferred to the testing sites
  2. Resourcing: Establishing a resourcing strategy and plan to mitigate the impact of the volunteer workforce’s return to their employment once restrictions are eased/removed
  3. Optimisation: Developing a testing optimisation strategy aimed at maximising the testing throughput of each site
  4. Shared Service: The development of a shared service model aimed at supporting the overall management of the labs and reducing potential duplication of effort.

Our Approach

AI Digital has a strong track record in helping organisations tackle difficult and complicated change initiatives within the biotechnology and health sectors. AI Digital’s practitioners have extensive experiences in complex and sensitive environments where consideration of not only the business process needs but also the sensitivity of human factor elements are vital for success. Throughout the project AI Digital consulted with the lab Directors and stakeholders through interviews, meetings, calls, and discussions.

The Covid-19 testing sustainability project required the Labs, suppliers and government departments to work closely for the duration of the programme, which was broken down into four key stages of Discover, Design, Deliver and Deploy.

The Result

At the start of the project, there were a total of 20 primary risks and issues across the programme, all flagged as critical (Red). By the end of the project, only 1 issue remained as critical with 8 classed as ‘under control’ (Amber) and 11 as ‘on-track’ (Green).

The table below shows the number of issues for each workstream and their status as of 11th May and the current stats as of 14th June 2020.

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