Background: On 3 August 2020, Public Health Scotland commenced a prospective surveillance study to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 among asymptomatic outpatients attending dental clinics across 14 health boards in Scotland.

Objectives: The primary aim of this quality improvement project was to increase the number of COVID-19 tests carried out in one of the participating sites, Glasgow Dental Hospital and School. The secondary aim was to identify barriers to patient participation and staff engagement when implementing a public health initiative in an outpatient setting.

Method: A quality improvement working group met weekly to discuss hospital findings, identify drivers and change ideas. Details on reasons for patient non-participation were recorded and questionnaires on project barriers were distributed to staff. In response to findings, rapid interventions were implemented to fast-track increases in the numbers of tests being carried out.

Results: Over 16 weeks, 972 tests were carried out by Glasgow Dental Hospital and School Secondary Care Services. The number of tests per week increased from 19 (week 1) to 129 (week 16). This compares to a similar ‘control’ site, where the number of tests carried out remained unchanged; 38 (week 1) to 36 (week 16). The most frequent reason given for non-participation was fear that the swab would hurt. For staff, lack of time and forgetting to ask patients were identified as the most significant barriers.

Conclusion: Public health surveillance programmes can be integrated rapidly into outpatient settings. This project has shown that a quality improvement approach can be successful in integrating such programmes. The key interventions used were staff engagement initiatives and front-line data collection. Implementation barriers were also identified using staff questionnaires.


This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

Cite as

Wemyss, C., Hobson, S., Sweeney, J., Rong Chua, P., Aishah Binti Mohd Khairi, S., Edwards, M., Burns, J., Goldrick, N., Braid, R., Gorman, M., Redmond, S., Clark, C., Brown, C., Watling, C., Conway, D. & Culshaw, S. 2022, 'Improving participation and engagement with a COVID-19 surveillance programme in an outpatient setting', BMJ Open Quality, 11(1), article no: e001700. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjoq-2021-001700

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Last updated: 20 June 2023
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