Health & Safety briefing – Testing on campus – National legal challenge – Coalition of Branches meeting

This is an important Health and Safety update, ahead of the December break and the Spring Term ahead.

  1. Today, Goldsmiths is scheduled to begin the mass testing of students and staff. Our National Office has stated its position on this
    Last week, GUCU Officers attended a briefing with the Local Director for Public Health on the matter.

Some key points from a scientific perspective:

  • these are lateral flow tests being offered to asymptomatic people. The tests give rapid results, but are not as accurate as the “gold standard” PCR tests (which go to laboratories)
  • volunteer patients will therefore be asked to take two tests, some days apart and a positive result should trigger a priority booking for a nearby PCR test, to confirm the infection
  • the tests have been reviewed in the British Medical Journal as yielding a lower level of accuracy when being self-administered
  • Oxford University’s data on the accuracy indicates that when a clinician administers the test, the accuracy can be over 90%
  • It is therefore vital that self-administering ‘patients’ follow the instructions to the letter to gain full benefit from the exercise
  • GUCU asked if there were any patient information leaflets about the tests / instructions and were reassured by SMT that posters would be displayed at the campus venue this week. GUCU found the attached FAQs about the test – which is really a guide for clinical settings, but could be useful information.
  • risk assessment and floor plan for the mass testing event is available, should members want to see it – please email one of our Health and Safety Team
  • Staff volunteers and student ambassadors at Goldsmiths will not be performing any clinical roles or handling clinical waste
  • the programme is a valid aspect of public health policy, in targeting large numbers of potentially asymptomatic people and thereby finding a small but useful margin of those people who can self-isolate and get the R-rate down further
  • It is yet to be proven as a “test and release” exercise that media outlets and the government are insisting it is. People still need to observe “hands-face-space” and all other precautions after any negative tests, to account for false negatives. 
  • If you are volunteering to help with the admin for this test exercise, are curious about taking the test(s) yourself or have any further questions, please feel free to email one of the H&S Team on: and

2. UCU National launches its judicial review this week, of the Westminster Government’s decision to re-open University campuses in the Autumn. The national legal team are maintaining the position that the decision was “unlawful” because it ignored the advice of the SAGE Committee.

3. What will happen next term? It does not look as though Universities will have to option to go 100% online, as we did during the Spring lockdown. GUCU has joined a coalition of other major UCU branches in seeking a legal opinion about how staff and students can be protected in the Covid-crisis that is likely to arise when students return to campus in January. In an atmosphere of crisis and especially where the possibility of redundancy is a concern, GUCU takes a zero-tolerance approach to the personal bullying of any individual staff member, which includes threats to their job loss based upon their inability to conduct face-to-face duties as a result of Health and Safety concerns. We would urge all interested members and especially caseworkers, to sign up for the following event: