GP practices will be invited to order lateral flow antigen tests for asymptomatic staff from this week, NHS England has said.
The deadline for ordering tests will be Wednesday 30 December, it added.
And sites delivering Covid vaccinations will not need to order tests for ‘vaccinator staff’ as these will be provided, it said.
Last month, NHS England announced that all patient-facing NHS staff – including GPs and their teams – would be eligible for twice-weekly Covid swabs to be taken at home.
Today, its primary care email bulletin confirmed that the lateral flow antigen tests will be rolled out to ‘asymptomatic patient-facing’ primary care staff across England from this week.
The bulletin said: ‘A letter will be sent to all primary care contractors later this week with further information on how to order and receive deliveries of lateral flow antigen testing kits for staff.
‘Following receipt of an invitation, organisations should log on and complete their order as quickly as possible. The final closing date for orders across all contractors will be Wednesday 30 December.’
GPs will receive an invitation to order the tests directly from Primary Care Services England (PCSE) – who are managing the ordering and delivery process – during a ‘window beginning from w/c 14 December’, NHS England added.
However, it said that sites vaccinating patients against coronavirus only need to order test for non-vaccinating staff.
The bulletin said: ‘Vaccination sites will be provided with separate deliveries of lateral flow testing devices for vaccinator staff.
‘No separate ordering is necessary for those staff, although the vaccination site should order for other patient-facing staff if required.’
NHS England said all results from the self-administered nasal swabs must be reported on an online platform and reiterated that positive results must be confirmed with a PCR test.
Dedicated FAQs and standard operating procedures ‘will be published this week’, it added.
A leaked draft of the standard operating procedures, seen by Pulse, said the testing will not be mandatory but that ‘numbers of staff who do not use the device should be documented and recorded’.
Recording the results of tests taken with NHS Digital will be a ‘statutory requirement’ and must be done within 30 minutes, it added.
The document said: ‘The timing is critical, as leaving the test for longer can lead to false positive results and the test will need to be repeated.’
GPs should also provide staff with ‘ongoing support’ for the testing process if needed, it added.
It said: ‘Primary care employers are encouraged to have regular conversations with their staff who are undertaking these tests to ensure that the available test kits are used and results reported in the correct way in order to ensure that all statutory requirements are met.’
Meanwhile, staff should take the test at home ‘to fit with their working patterns’, the standard operating procedure said.
It said: ‘Staff should be asked to conduct the test before the start of work, leaving enough time to alert their employer who may need to arrange cover, should their lateral flow test be positive – for example the night before or a couple of hours before.’
And practices should print the NHS staff instruction leaflet – which is different to the manufacturer’s instructions because NHS staff are using the test in ‘slightly different way’ – and distribute it with tests, it added.
The document said: ‘Note that the box does not come with the NHS staff instruction leaflet; this is available here and will need to be printed and handed to staff members alongside the box.’
It added: ‘The manufacturer’s instructions for use (IFU) are included in the box and are detailed and very technical. These do not need to be followed as NHS staff are using the test in a slightly different way and should follow the NHS staff instruction leaflet instead, which has been agreed with experts and discussed with the MHRA.
‘The manufacturer has been informed. This is particularly in relation to use of the test for asymptomatic people, self-administration of the test, and the use of nasal swab inside the lower part of both nostrils.’
The document also said:
- GPs should ensure they have ‘enough room for storing the kits’;
- Staff with a negative test result must still self-isolate if advised to do so by Test & Trace or the COVID19 app;
- If a positive lateral flow test is confirmed with a positive PCR test, lateral flow testing should be paused for that staff member for 90 days.
In October, NHS England said that GPs in high-risk areas would get access to regular asymptomatic Covid testing.
It also announced last month that GPs will be able to ‘opt in’ to offering Covid testing to patients in their practices.