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John Lewis becomes first retailer to roll out NHS lateral flow COVID-19 testing

Tom Shearsmith
18 December 2020

John Lewis has become the first major UK business to successfully pilot and roll out NHS Test and Trace lateral flow COVID-19 testing, thanks to a partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care.

Rapid COVID-19 testing was introduced initially to the national John Lewis distribution centre in Milton Keynes in November, which in response to huge Black Friday and pre-Christmas demand, processed around 135,000 orders per day during the month.

Up to 1,000 Partners and temporary agency staff volunteered to be tested up to three-times a week. With around 1 in 3 individuals with COVID-19 not displaying symptoms, testing helps to protect staff and customers by quickly identifying those that need to isolate, ensuring they did not unknowingly pass on the virus.

Due to the pilot’s initial success, testing will now be available at 40 John Lewis and Waitrose locations in England. This includes Waitrose and John Lewis supply chain sites, Waitrose customer fulfilment centres, John Lewis textiles factory and selected Waitrose and John Lewis shops.

Working closely with NHS Test and Trace, it will provide capability to test around 16,000 Partners and temporary agency staff per week and enable John Lewis and Waitrose to meet customer needs throughout the festive season.

Testing is voluntary, providing results within 30 minutes and feeds directly into the national testing database. Rapid testing is part of the UK Government’s programme to introduce mass testing across the country, including as part of a recent whole city pilot in Liverpool.

Andrew Murphy, Executive Director for Operations at the John Lewis Partnership said: “We’re proud to have helped develop and establish a testing scheme that contributes towards the UK’s fight against COVID-19. We already have a wide range of measures in place to keep our Partners and customers safe and rapid testing builds on this at our busiest time of the year.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “I’m delighted that the John Lewis Partnership are working alongside us in piloting the latest testing technology. It’s fantastic that such a renowned company is joining us in our efforts to make testing available for workers up and down the country.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: “This pilot is one of many which will lay the foundations for the next phase of NHS Test and Trace with rapid, targeted testing which will allow us to identify even more people who may be unknowingly carrying the virus, more quickly.”

“In addition to the testing taking place in work places such as the John Lewis Partnership, we are carrying out rapid, regular testing in hospitals, care homes, universities and other areas that we value and that we need as a society to stay open and stay safe.”

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