This site is intended for health professionals only

NHS England plans to launch Covid swab testing in primary care

GPs could be asked to take on live coronavirus testing as NHS England said that swab testing in primary care is the ‘next step’ in the programme.

The programme, which aims to establish whether someone currently has the virus, is set to be expanded from its current availability in hospitals, regional or mobile testing sites and via home-delivery test kits.

It comes as GPs were told last week that they should start offering Covid-19 antibody testing to patients who are having bloods taken for other reasons, if the patient wishes to know if they have had the virus.

NHS England testing cell incident director Keziah Halliday told GPs in a live webinar on Thursday evening that NHS England is now ‘working on’ setting up coronavirus swab testing in primary care.

She said: ‘We are working on processes locally or regionally in order to be able to have testing available in other locations, including in primary care. 

‘We haven’t set those up just yet but that is the next step and that will be coming along.’

GPs will also be notified of their patient’s swab testing results conducted either via home testing or regional and mobile testing sites ‘very soon’, Ms Halliday added. 

She said: ‘Those results get sent to the individual via text message and it is now the case that they are starting to put in a process for [them] to be delivered into primary care systems alongside the other test results.

‘Those processes are currently being tested in EMIS, SystmOne, TPP and other providers and those should be going live very soon.’

In Friday’s GP bulletin, NHS England added that results from the national swab testing route should start appearing in the patient’s record as a laboratory test result ‘within the next two weeks’ as part of a ‘bulk upload’.

This includes results from previous tests undertaken through this route except in a ‘small number of cases where there was insufficient information to identify the patient’s NHS number’, it said.

It added: ‘GP practices will shortly receive further guidance by their own system supplier about how this will work in their own system of choice, as well as details on how results will be filed in the system.’

NHS England clarified that ‘no action will be required from the practice on receipt of these results’, including communicating results to patients, any ‘clinical action’ or notifying Public Health England under the notifiable diseases requirements – as these will all have been completed already.

Last week, GPs were asked to provide Covid antibody testing for patients who have bloods taken but warned it was ‘their responsibility and to inform the patient of the result and that a positive test does not indicate immunity to Covid-19′.

Meanwhile, England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries admitted last night that the absence of contact-traced GPs will put ‘pressure’ on practices, after the Government launched its ‘test and trace’ programme last week.