Coronavirus testing for key workers and citizens
2020 has not turned out the way anyone had expected so far. Like so many others, all of our big plans for this year have unfortunately been put on hold. My family were due to visit this year from Thailand and we had holidays booked to both Orlando and New York. But let’s not pretend the Coronavirus has been just an inconvenience, it has been devasting to many. Never have we before seen anything quite like this before and, hopefully, never will again. Seemingly overnight, life as we knew came to a complete standstill.
At the beginning of this all I had been working on a Discovery for the Department of Health and Social Care looking at how we might fill the growing gap in vacancies within the social care sector. Then one morning, I was asked to attend a meeting with representatives with NHSX and the Secretary of State. In that meeting we were tasked with getting an end-to-end service stood up that would allow key workers who were self-isolating to get a COVID-19 test and, if testing negative back to the frontline. The problem at that time was so vast about 1 third of the London Ambulance Service were off duty in a state of self isolation.
Working with colleagues from Difrent, Amazon, NHS BSA and Randox we looked at how we might be able to throw out the traditional Service Standard model (Discovery, Alpha, Beta, Live) and instead work in a Lean Start-Up model of build, measure, learn. With some extreme service design, late nights, no days off and pure dedication to the cause we were able to start taking orders from symptomatic key workers within 7-8 days after that initial meeting. Although we cut corners which would eventually been frowned upon from service design purists, it was absolutely essential that we had this infrastructure of a full service (online and offline touch points) in place to start beating this out of control virus. This point was unfortunately missed by some.
Luckily we managed to take a very modest service proposition and iterate over time, eventually help the UK government to hit their initial 100,000 antigen tests per day and have since surpassed that rate by some distance. The key learning from this experience is keeping the teams developing these services to reasonable time, throwing people and expertise at these situations has the reverse effect of actually slowing productivity. Something I had learned many years previously when working within the rail industry.
I must say I was very humbled to receive recognition for the small part I played in this by receiving an email and letter from the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. All those long hours, days and weeks lost to working in my office whilst my wife had to look after my young family during a pandemic was no easy task so it was very nice to get some recognition for this.