“Up to around 9,500 tests have been getting dispatched out of here each day,” reports Darren Perry, the CWU area rep at Royal Mail’s National Distribution Centre (NDC) near Rugby, Warwickshire.
From NDC, the majority of Covid-19 home test kits are dispatched to the NHS laboratory in Milton Keynes, with the rest being sent to the other main lab in Antrim, Northern Ireland.
“We’ve got a dedicated team of around six to 10 people working on this here – from about 8.30pm, they get the kits in from the mail centres, hand scan each one, put them back onto the trays and into yorks and then load up for the main 7.40am dispatch,” Darren explains.
CWU assistant secretary Davie Robertson explains that NDC is “the national hub for this campaign, and our members there and at all the other units around the country are doing a superb job.
“We’re pleased to be supporting this campaign – without doubt the public have recognised the contribution postal workers have made during the crisis and, in assisting with the Government testing process, we enhance our reputation as key workers,” he continues.
Manchester Mail Centre is receiving “from 320 to 380 kits each day” according to Paul Casey, who works in the unit’s ‘priority mails’ section and is tasked with receiving and organising incoming test kits from delivery offices serving five post code areas.
“It starts coming in during the afternoon and we dispatch from here down to NDC each evening at 7.30pm,” says Paul – “about two yorks full.”
Peter Clarke is the APR here and as well as praising Paul’s efforts, he also makes a special mention of Karen Ingleby, who shares the weekend prep duty.
And with the onus on getting these tests turned around as quickly as possible, the weekends are every bit as busy as the rest of the week – “this Sunday just gone, we processed 245 kits,” says Karen.
Alan Summers – Glasgow
Up in Glasgow, APR Alan Donnachie reports a daily average of “around 200” which come in from Motherwell, Kilmarnock and Paisley as well as Glasgow.
“It’s looked after by Alan Summers and he’s doing a great job – he gets an email telling him about his incoming deliveries and he collates them all in a secure locker where we hold tracked items. And all the test kits are dispatched together at 10pm off to NDC.
“We’re working together well with the company on this project. I have regular meetings with my manager here and reviewing and discussing the test kits campaign is always on the agenda,” explains Alan, adding: So far it’s being carried out faultlessly.”
Down at NDC, Darren Perry says that the team of volunteers here are “a brilliant crew – it’s quite a manual operation because you do have to physically hand scan each item. So, it’s a big task, but they’re all up for it. And they’re doing really well.”
There was some “apprehension” when the campaign was first being discussed over issues around handling the test kits, but once the full procedures and protocols were fully explained and introduced, the volunteers were reassured, Darren continues.
“Everyone realises the importance of this campaign – for the NHS, for all our fellow key workers and for the country – and we’ve got all the right measures in place and the appropriate precautions.
“We’re doing our part and we’re doing well on it.”
Davie Robertson says that “these positive reports from RDCs and mail centres around the country show how our members in all functions can work together in the public interest – and what a difference we can make.
“Getting as many home test kits turned around as quickly as possible is critical to the national push to ramp up testing and the discreet network our members in RMSS/Relay are providing to the Government test centres, collecting and delivering test kits is crucial to the testing programme. Hopefully, the contribution of CWU members will allow the whole nation to move forward out of this period.
“Once again, I’m very proud of our members and the great job they’re all doing.”