Perspectives on COVID-19 testing policies and practices: a qualitative study with scientific advisors and NHS health care workers in England
Martindale AM., Pilbeam C., Mableson H., Tonkin-Crine S., Atkinson P., Borek A., Lant S., Gobat N., Solomon T., Sheard S.
Background: As COVID-19 death rates have risen and health-care systems have experienced increased demand, national testing strategies have come under scrutiny. Utilising qualitative interview data from a larger COVID-19 study, this paper provides insights into influences on and the enactment of national COVID-19 testing strategies for health care workers (HCWs) in English NHS settings during wave one of the COVID-19 pandemic (March–August 2020). Through the findings we aim to inform learning about COVID-19 testing policies and practices; and to inform future pandemic diagnostic preparedness. Methods: A remote qualitative, semi-structured longitudinal interview method was employed with a purposive snowball sample of senior scientific advisors to the UK Government on COVID-19, and HCWs employed in NHS primary and secondary health care settings in England. Twenty-four interviews from 13 participants were selected from the larger project dataset using a key term search, as not all of the transcripts contained references to testing. Framework analysis was informed by the non-adoption, abandonment, scale-up, spread, and sustainability of patient-facing health and care technologies implementation framework (NASSS) and by normalisation process theory (NPT). Results: Our account highlights tensions between the communication and implementation of national testing developments; scientific advisor and HCW perceptions about infectiousness; and uncertainties about the responsibility for testing and its implications at the local level. Conclusions: Consideration must be given to the implications of mass NHS staff testing, including the accuracy of information communicated to HCWs; how HCWs interpret, manage, and act on testing guidance; and the influence these have on health care organisations and services.