Thanks, and Farewell to Wirral’s Community Testing Team

11 May 2022
A thanks to Wirral's Community Testing Team

Since December 2020, Wirral’s Community Testing team have carried out 183,655 assisted tests and distributed 2,144,363 test kits – breaking the chains of transmission, reducing the spread of infection, and saving lives in the borough. 

Wirral’s Director of Public Health Julie Webster said: 

As the National community testing programme is drawn to a conclusion, we’re adapting to the new ways in which we will need to operate as we learn to live safely with COVID-19. 

I want to thank every member of the Community Testing Team for their professionalism, hard work, and dedication that have helped to keep Wirral well during this unprecedented time.  

Every member of staff, past and present, has contributed to the fantastic level of service we have been able to deliver for local people, in the last 18 months.  

The Community Testing Team has demonstrated what can be achieved in partnership and through effective teamwork, and I am immensely proud of all that the team and the service has achieved.

Sue Freeman worked as a Testing Site Lead in Birkenhead and on Mobile Testing Units for 16 months. Sue said: 

Like everyone in the team, my background wasn’t in COVID-19 testing. I was a computer-skills tutor, but the pandemic meant I needed another job as I could no longer visit people in their homes to deliver one-to-one teaching.  

“So, after spending 6 months helping to set up and run PCR testing facilities with a private contractor, I joined Wirral Council in early December 2020.  

“The pandemic meant that people with vastly different backgrounds were working in the same team, with people from banking and industry working alongside PHD and sixth-form students. However, our incredibly diverse team all pulled together to deliver a potentially life-saving service, which, seems to have been really appreciated by local people. 

“We’ve had many lovely comments, a few nice letters and even boxes of chocolates as a little thank you.

Stewart Cannon, Site Lead, Cherry Tree Testing Centre, Liscard 

When I started on 8th December 2020, the Army had just done a fantastic job setting up the Greasby facility, before handing it over to the Council to run.  

“Demand was huge back then, with up to 800 tests being carried out every day in the run up to Christmas 2020. But despite the long waits – which could be up to two and a half hours – people understood the situation and remained cheerful and grateful for the service. 

“I remember one lady who, not realising the queue was for Covid testing, took her place in the queue and on reaching the front an hour and a half later, handed over a bag of library books which she had only wanted to return. Thankfully, she saw the funny side and was happy to take a test, so it wasn’t a complete waste of her time. 

“When testing ended in Greasby I helped to establish the unit at the Cherry Tree Centre in Liscard, and I’m glad to say that once again, I and the whole team genuinely felt that they we were making a difference, with hundreds of people passing through the centre every day at peak times. 

“Testing finished at the Cherry Tree on the last day of March 2022, which meant I had spent 478 days working on the testing team, which is far longer any of us expected back in 2020.” 

“I am really proud of what we achieved and am now looking forward to a new challenge in the Council’s housing team.

Wirral Community Testing in Numbers 

Number of Assisted Tests carried out: 183,655 

Number of Home Test Kits distributed: 2,144,363  

Most tests completed in a day… 

  • Floral Pavilion Test Centre, New Brighton: 1380 Assisted Tests (Christmas Eve 2020) 
  • Eastham Library Test Centre: 846 Assisted Tests (22/12/2020) 
  • Greasby Library Test Centre: 700 Assisted Tests (23/12/2020) 
  • Birkenhead Test Centre: 490 Assisted Tests (22/12/2020)   

On Christmas Eve 2020 a total of 2856 assisted tests were completed, across the 4 fixed sites, in 6 hours, with the Floral Pavilion hitting 1380 assisted tests – 16 of those being positive. 

The following week, on New Year’s Eve 2020, the Floral Pavilion performed some 1039 assisted tests in a 6-hour period, with 43 of those proving positive. 

Wirral Community Testing: Key Moments  

APRIL 2020 

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) began working with Wirral Council and Wirral NHS CCG to offer COVID-19 testing for key workers who have COVID-19 symptoms of at the first mobile testing site in Bidston. 

7 DECEMBER 2020 Symptom-free testing begins in Wirral  

The Army supports Wirral Council in setting up four testing centres across the Borough, to break the chain of transmission and keep residents safe. 

  • The Floral Pavilion 
  • Greasby Library  
  • Eastham Library  
  • Birkenhead Market 

Commanding Officer 39 Engineer Regiment Lt Col Jamie Stuart said:

It has been great working with Wirral Council supporting the delivery of the community testing programme. We have been made to feel very welcome and we are very glad we could provide assistance in these difficult times.

JANUARY 2021 

The former House of Fraser building on Grange Road in Birkenhead opens as the new home of symptom-free testing in the town centre. 

JUNE 2021 

The Floral Pavilion testing centre was launched on Monday 7 December 2020 and carried out more than 40,000 symptom-free tests with an average of 237 tests each day. The highest number of tests carried out on one day was on Christmas Eve when 1,380 were taken. 

Meanwhile, residents were urged to pick-up a free COVID-19 test kit from any of 100+ new outlets in Wirral 

DECEMBER 2021 

Cherry Tree Testing Centre Opens in Liscard  

Symptom-free testing centre opened, providing a convenient place for residents, shoppers and local workers to drop-in for a rapid lateral flow test or to collect a free home testing kit. 

And finally…  

MARCH 2022  

Community Testing comes to an end and we say thanks and goodbye to the team.