On the ground

Coronavirus: on the ground in Leeds

Practice manager and dispensing optician, Jordan Pretty, shares her experience of volunteering in the Boots COVID-19 testing centres for frontline NHS staff

Leeds UK map

As the coronavirus pandemic transforms the way optometrists practise, OT is sharing the experiences of optometrists across the UK. If you, or a colleague, are interested in sharing your story please get in touch: [email protected]

At first, when the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak hit, people were rearranging and cancelling their appointments. We then had a surge of people trying to purchase spare pairs of glasses and contact lenses so they had back-up options.

We made the decision at the end of March to close Boots Opticians practices apart from a small number that would provide essential or emergency eye care needs – one of which I manage alongside volunteering at Boots’ COVID-19 testing centre.

When the practice closed, I was at home and I felt I couldn’t just sit and do nothing. I wanted to do something. I had already put my name down for NHS volunteering, and I’d contacted my line manager about options. For example, I knew that we were looking for more pharmacy delivery and collection drivers at Boots. But then I heard that we were setting up COVID-19 testing centres, and it was something I just knew that I wanted to be involved in – so my manager asked if I wanted to be a testing supervisor.

I couldn’t just sit at home. I have a friend who is an intensive care unit nurse who is currently self-isolating because of cold-like symptoms. She doesn’t think she has the virus but has decided to isolate to be on the safe side. She feels awful because she knows the stress and strain this is putting on her colleagues and is desperate to be tested and get back to where she is needed.

So when I heard about the testing centres that Boots is running, I leapt at the chance to be able to do something practical to help people like my friend get back to work and be confident that they aren’t at risk of passing coronavirus onto their patients.

I’ve come away today with a real buzz – because I know that what I am doing will help more people


My first job as site supervisor was getting a team together who would work with me on the testing site. I had to get a team of 12 volunteers together along with another site supervisor. I knew it would be easy among my Boots Opticians colleagues and across another Boots store nearby, especially once they heard about what we would be doing.

The first morning was spent training, for example on how to put the personal protective equipment on properly, as you have to put it on in a certain order. Then we did classroom activities to practice on one another (not with the actual testing kits, of course).

We started testing people that afternoon and had 40 cars on our first day. In each car is a member of frontline NHS staff who believes that they may have COVID-19. We use the swabbing kits, and these swabs are then sent off to labs for testing.

Jordan and team
Jordan Pretty and her team at the COVID-19 testing centre

I think working so closely with the NHS in my optometric practice, even through routine referrals, has helped me in my volunteering experience. We know how stretched the NHS is regardless of the outbreak, so anything we can do to ease that is really important to me. Each of the volunteers has some clinical background too, so we are familiar with working with patients.

I have loved the experience so far. I’ve come away today with a real buzz – because I know that what I am doing will help more people. It’s an amazing feeling.

This experience has also meant working with a larger team than I am used to in the practice, and integrating with the other companies involved.