Most GP practices will be able to order one batch of 40 Covid-19 PCR swab tests per week, under guidance released by the Department for Health and Social Care today.
The news comes as NHS England announced yesterday that practices will be able to opt in to providing Covid swab testing on site, on a voluntary basis.
GPs are expected to order the swab kits from a Government portal, store them appropriately – at the right temperature and following infection control protocols – register the tests, and return them via Royal Mail priority post boxes.
Practices can request to be moved into ‘category 2’ of the service, if they require more than 40 tests per week or require tests to be picked up via courier because they work on weekends or are situated away from a Royal Mail priority post box.
These practices can order up to 200 Covid swab tests per week.
‘As far as possible’ GP practice staff is not expected to carry out the swab tests, which should be self-administered by the patient. However in instances where a patient requires assisted testing, staff members need to be specially trained to avoid infection risk, the guidance said.
Patients will receive test results directly via email or text. The result will flow into GP patient records within 3-5 days but IT systems will not flag results, unless this is locally arranged.
Practices should call 119 for any questions regarding the service, including to find out their unique organisation number required for registering tests, as well as chasing up on kit orders.
The Government said the service comes in response to calls from GPs who found there were barriers to testing for some patients, ‘for example, due to barriers around language, disability or digital inclusion’.
According to DHSC data, 75% of GP practices have had to ‘use a surgery email on behalf of a digitally excluded patient’.
The new services will ‘streamline patient care and increase access to testing for patients who would otherwise be unlikely to get a test via the primary testing routes’, the guidance said.