Rapid testing for key workers to launch in Milton Keynes

Wednesday 6 January 2021

  • Testing pilot for key workers aims to drive down transmission rates
  • Testing to begin in Milton Keynes using rapid turnaround tests supplied by NHS Test and Trace

Milton Keynes Council, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, is piloting testing for key workers to help understand and drive down transmission rates.

Around one in three people who are infected with Covid-19 have no symptoms and could be spreading the disease without knowing it.  Broadening testing to identify key workers showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly, which helps break chains of transmission.

Milton Keynes has received a batch of 22,000 lateral flow tests for its new pilot, which will initially test local workers from within the police, fire services and frontline council staff including those in social care.  Partners at the NHS and care homes are already tested in a separate scheme.

Lateral flow tests are a new kind of technology that can be used to test a higher proportion of asymptomatic people and do not require a laboratory to process the test. Extensive clinical evaluation from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show lateral flow tests do not detect all positive cases, but they can be helpful as part of a mass testing programme to identify asymptomatic people quickly.

The pilot will start this week at the Central Library in Milton Keynes. The Council is working with partners to make arrangements for asymptomatic employees to be tested at a convenient time, and by invitation only. Other local key workers and residents are asked not to turn up or contact the Council for an appointment.  If the pilot works as planned, it will be rolled out more widely in the coming weeks.

No key workers with symptoms will be tested at this site. Instead, they are asked to use the existing free testing service. Anyone with one or more of these symptoms – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste – should book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

Milton Keynes has test centres in Central Milton Keynes and Bletchley that are open 7 days a week, and a test centre in Newport Pagnell open Wednesdays and Fridays.

Milton Keynes Director of Public Health Vicky Head said:

“In Milton Keynes our transmission rates are serious and there’s no single hotspot or outbreak locally that’s driving this – it’s general person to person transmission that we can all help to control. One in three people with COVID-19 have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising it.

“Our pilot for key workers is intended to help break transmission by identifying people who are positive for COVID-19 without displaying typical symptoms.  By doing this we can help to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases, limit the number of people who might fall very ill, and protect the NHS.”

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.

“Around one in three people have the virus without symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly, and break chains of transmission.

“I’m delighted that Milton Keynes Council is working with us roll out testing, and I look forward to seeing the results.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said:

“NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against COVID-19. Increased testing is a vital additional tool at our disposal to help identify those who are infected and infectious, but unaware that they might be spreading the disease.

“The work of Milton Keynes Council will be essential in driving down transmission rates.


  • On 9 November the Prime Minister announced that lateral flow tests will be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to local public health leaders to enable local teams to direct and deliver testing based on their local knowledge. And with over 2 million lateral flow test kits delivered to over 100 local authorities locally led testing is already underway across England.
  • The government has also committed to providing the devolved administrations with an allocation of lateral flow tests as they are made available, as part of UK-wide collaboration to stop the spread of the virus.
  • See latest testing statistics here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public