How do we engage people in testing for COVID-19? A rapid qualitative evaluation of a testing programme in schools, GP surgeries and a university

Daniella Watson, Natalia Laverty Baralle, Jawahr Alagil, Krithika Anil, Sandy Ciccognani, Rachel Dewar-Haggart, Sarah Fearn, Julia Groot, Kathryn Knowles, Claire Meagher, Carmel McGrath, Sarah Muir, Jo Musgrove, Kate Glyn-Owen, Kath Woods-Townsend, Andrew Mortimore, Paul Roderick, Janis Baird, Hazel Inskip, Keith GodfreyMary Barker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)


Background: The UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) emphasises the need for high levels of engagement with communities and individuals to ensure the effectiveness of any COVID-19 testing programme. A novel pilot health surveillance programme to assess the feasibility of weekly community RT-LAMP (Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification) testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus using saliva samples collected at home was developed and piloted by the University of Southampton and Southampton City Council. Methods: Rapid qualitative evaluation was conducted to explore experiences of those who took part in the programme, of those who declined and of those in the educational and healthcare organisations involved in the pilot testing who were responsible for roll-out. This included 77 interviews and 20 focus groups with 223 staff, students, pupils and household members from four schools, one university, and one community healthcare NHS trust. The insights generated and informed the design and modification of the Southampton COVID-19 Saliva Testing Programme and the next phase of community-testing. Results: Discussions revealed that high levels of communication, trust and convenience were necessary to ensure people’s engagement with the programme. Participants felt reassured by and pride in taking part in this novel programme. They suggested modifications to reduce the programme’s environmental impact and overcome cultural barriers to participation. Conclusions: Participants’ and stakeholders’ motivations, challenges and concerns need to be understood and these insights used to modify the programme in a continuous, real-time process to ensure and sustain engagement with testing over the extended period necessary. Community leaders and stakeholder organisations should be involved throughout programme development and implementation to optimise engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number305
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the participants for their time and interest in the interviews and focus groups. We would also like to thank the Southampton COVID-19 Testing Pilot Programme team for their help with recruitment and data collection, the University of Southampton, Southampton City Council and University Hospital Southampton for their support with evaluating the programme, and the Department of Health and Social Care for funding the project.


  • Community engagement
  • COVID-19 testing
  • Rapid qualitative evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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