De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has become one of the first sites in the UK to pilot a new kind of Covid-19 test which could lead to faster, more widespread testing nationwide.
The university has been chosen by the Government’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to host a new NHS Test and Trace centre offering staff and students free Lateral Flow tests.
Lateral Flow tests are aimed at people without Covid symptoms and can produce results faster than the current PCR tests used across the NHS to test those with symptoms.
The hope is that the pilot being run at DMU will mean Lateral Flow testing can be scaled up and offered across the country, giving a much higher number of people without symptoms regular tests, catching positive cases at a much earlier stage.
The creation and staffing of the centre has been led by DHSC and it is being run at The Watershed, DMU’s sports venue off Upperton Road. As a designated facility for the NHS pilot programme, the testing centre is not open to members of the public.
Professor Andy Collop, Interim Vice-Chancellor of DMU. “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the health and wellbeing of our community has always been our top priority and by hosting this pilot, we are giving our students and staff an opportunity to get regularly tested for free and in doing so they are directly supporting the fight against the virus.
“Those who take part will help the Government develop a clearer understanding of how best to identify asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19.”
Lateral Flow tests detect the presence or absence of coronavirus by applying a swab or saliva sample to the device’s absorbent pad. The sample runs along the surface of the pad, showing a visual positive or negative result dependent on the presence of the virus.
The tests have been validated by Public Health England, are deemed safe and offer reliable results.
The progress of the DMU trial will be analysed carefully alongside other university and school trials to assess how Lateral Flow devices might be used to test large numbers of people who do not have symptoms, and how this might help to get the country back to normal.
“If successful, the pilot could allow for the rapid deployment of new testing technology, enabling regular testing in targeted locations – a clear step forward in the fight against Covid-19,” continued Professor Collop.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter Covid-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.
“Innovations such as Lateral Flow devices hold the key to the next phase of our ambition to see mass, rapid testing available to people across the country.
“I’m delighted that DMU are working with us to pilot the latest technology at their campus in Leicester, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, both in helping target the virus locally, and helping find ways to roll this technology out further soon.”
On Friday 6 November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the new testing facility at DMU to see how the process worked and meet with staff and students taking part in the pilot. He said Lateral Flow testing can be a “hugely valuable tool in the fight against coronavirus.”
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, DMU has worked to support its staff, students and the community around it. Hundreds of volunteers from across the university have stepped up to helping people across the city and the NHS, while a wealth of academic research has been conducted exploring the virus and the long-term effects it could have.
“This pilot is an extension of the incredible work our community has been doing throughout the pandemic and offers our students and staff a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of the national effort against Covid-19,” added Professor Collop.
DMU students and staff can book a test through their MyDMU portal. For more information about the pilot click here.