GPs are among asymptomatic NHS workers who will be eligible for twice-weekly Covid swabs, using a new rapid test kit that delivers results within an hour.
All patient-facing staff will get access to regular testing, NHS England said, as the new type of test has now been scientifically validated.
Staff will be trained to take the new ‘lateral flow’ tests themselves at home, getting results before coming into work, it added.
A letter sent yesterday by NHS England medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: ‘Following further scientific validation of the lateral flow testing modality, and confirmation over the weekend from Test and Trace that they can now supply the NHS with sufficient test kits, we are pleased to confirm that asymptomatic testing will be made available to all patient-facing NHS staff.’
The letter added: ‘With appropriate training staff will be able to test themselves at home twice a week with results available before coming into work.’
The letter acknowledged that the new test is ‘less sensitive’ but said this flaw was mitigated by the tests being taken twice weekly, and that all positive tests should be reconfirmed using PCR testing.
NHS settings will be contacted by NHS England for delivery details for the Innova lateral flow devices, which come in boxes of 25. Standard operating procedures will be updated with training materials, the letter added.
The same type of test is already being used in the new mass asymptomatic testing programme that has been rolled out to the people of Liverpool.
The Government further announced that local authorities across England would be sent 600,000 of the new testing kits to ‘enable increased testing of priority and high-risk groups in local communities on a weekly basis’.
‘This innovative new testing technology – which is already being rolled out as part of whole-city testing in Liverpool that began on Friday – can provide results within an hour without needing to be processed in a lab,’ the Department of Health and Social Care said.
The news comes as Professor Powis said last month that GPs in high-risk areas would get access to regular asymptomatic Covid testing.
NHS England also announced last week that GPs will be able to ‘opt in’ to offering Covid testing to patients in their practices.