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Lateral flow testing – new rapid tests to detect COVID-19

Lateral Flow Tests are a type of rapid COVID-19 test which have been validated by PHE and now being used to help detect COVID-19. They can provide results within an hour and work using the same technology as a conventional pregnancy test. More information and an animation are available from a government blog.

Lateral flow tests are being used as part of screening programmes to identify people who are infected with COVID-19, but who do not show any symptoms. These people wouldn’t meet the requirements for the test offered under the national NHS Test and Trace, Test and Protect or Test, trace and protect programmes.

They are increasingly available to both the public locally through trials, through drop-in centres and also increasingly available to healthcare workers through the NHS. Check with your local authority, local government or health board to check if lateral flow tests are available for patients in your area.

There will be local protocols in place for people who test positive or negative. Generally these will require people who test positive test to have the result confirmed with the more reliable “PCR” test through the NHS Test and Trace (or equivalent) programme. Those who have test negative but later show symptoms of coronavirus should also be referred to NHS Test and Trace (or equivalent) programme to follow up with a PCR test.

For those who have tested negative and have no symptoms, no additional action is usually required, however it it’s important to understand that a negative test lateral flow test results doesn’t confirm the person doesn’t have a coronavirus infection. It has a lower sensitivity than the PCR test, and it is known that people infected with coronavirus may be missed with this test. As a result it is important that normal social distancing and PPE good practice guidelines continue to be followed at work.

Further information on lateral flow testing can be found below:
List of local authorities receiving lateral flow tests from the Department of Health and Social Care
NHS guidance on Lateral flow antigen test FAQs: roll out in primary care
 

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