Inside our Covid-19 Testing Centre

With only a few days until our testing centre opens, we hear from the people behind the site development to find out how they’ve delivered this complex project from start to finish in just 16 days, and how we will deliver the thousands of tests needed to support our students who intend to travel home this Christmas.

“The team first met on site on 13 November with just a sketch and some NHS specifications. The initial build was completed in five days and now we’re putting together the finishing touches ready for Monday. It’s a phenomenal team effort to achieve what we have in such a short space of time. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved – to the project group and to the many colleagues across the University. This is a fantastic example of our vision for One University in action.” Keith Lilley, Director of Infrastructure

Mark Holden, Head of Estates Development and Helen Lally, Testing Centre Project Manager, are leading on the construction side of the project. Here they share some pictures to illustrate how we have converted the Octagon Centre into a testing facility:

Image of Covid-19 testing centre bays

Image shows step by step instructions inside testing bay

Image of testing bay

Image of specially equipped testing booth for accessibility

Image of sinks in testing centre

Image of signage for the testing centre

Image of Covid test centre queue floor sign

Image of hand sanitising points

With the physical build in place, Health and Safety colleagues are now nearing completion of the necessary health and safety risk assessments for the centre and the site will be operational from 8.30am to 8.30pm seven days per week with 24-hour security commencing Monday 30 November. Initially we are planning to run the centre at capacity until the end of the student travel window on 9 December, with the possibility of testing beyond this period.

We have recruited over 300 centre staff

To operate at full capacity we have needed to recruit over 300 centre staff. A dedicated team from HR has been leading the recruitment activity, as Rob Gower, Associate Director of Human Resources, explains: “To operate the centre at full capacity we need 88 staff at any point in time. With the centre running for 12 hours per day, seven days per week it means we have needed to recruit over 300 staff to cover all the shifts. We understand that this is a busy time for everyone, and we have primarily recruited staff for the centre through external agencies and the student Job Shop. We have been overwhelmed by the scale of the response and are grateful to all our students and staff who have expressed an interest in our roles and who have been keen to help us get the centre running.

“We are providing a full training programme for staff on site this week ready for opening on Monday, this includes training in the correct use of PPE where required. We are being supported by a number of experienced colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, who are providing us with clinical expertise, leadership and training and we are extremely grateful to colleagues in the Academic Unit of Medical Education for freeing these staff up from their normal duties to support us.”

Thank you to Campus Services

Colleagues from EFM’s Campus Services are playing a critical role in the operational mobilisation of the facility. Their work has included collecting supplies, handling deliveries, installing the necessary cleaning protocols, equipment and supplies, printing signage, delivering tool box training talks and producing staffing rosters.

Lisa Woods, Head of Campus Services is heading up this area of work. She said: “It’s been an extremely hectic few weeks as we are still delivering all our services, including the additional Covid cleaning regime across campus to support ongoing research and teaching activities. It’s been a real team effort both within EFM and across Professional Services and I’m particularly proud of team members who have stepped forward from Campus Services to take up specialist roles in the testing centre.”

2,516 bookings and counting

Other vital requirements for the centre include the booking system, IT support and communications. Liz Wheat from the Planning, Projects & Business Intelligence (PPBI) Projects and Change Team is supporting Simon Townley and his team from IT Services, Malcolm Roberts and his team from Student Communications, and Craig Best and his team from Student Support Services, to deliver the centre booking system, IT support and communications. The booking system went live earlier this week, along with email communications to students.

Liz said: “Before the booking system was live, we gave students the opportunity to register their interest in a test, with 4,087 registering their interest before Wednesday. The booking system has been up and running since Tuesday, and as of midday on Thursday we have had 2,516 bookings. At full capacity we can offer over 1,800 tests per day.”

For further details about our Covid-19 Testing Centre, including booking information for students, visit