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Testing: How GPs can book a swab test to find out if they have Covid-19 – May

How GPs and other NHS workers can book a coronavirus test

Who is eligible for testing in the UK?

  • Anyone over the age of five with symptoms – ie a new continuous cough; high temperature; a loss of or change in normal sense of smell or taste.
  • Children under five years old in England and Wales who have symptoms of coronavirus and live with an essential worker (this test must be performed by a parent or guardian)
  • Asymptomatic care home residents or staff. In England this is whether or not any of the residents or staff have symptoms, while in other devolved countries restrictions may apply.
  • The Government has promised that NHS staff in England will soon be able to get tested ‘whether or not they have symptoms’.

How does the testing system work in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

There are two routes to getting tested. First, employers of NHS staff and other essential workers can use a referral system to book their employee for a test at a regional drive-through testing site.

Alternatively, NHS staff can apply for a test themselves online – with the option of booking a test through a drive-through appointment or ordering a home kit.

When to apply?

Apply within the first three days of having symptoms. The test is best taken within five days of symptoms starting.

You might not get a test if you apply – it depends how many tests are available in your area.

Testing is available to everyone in the UK over the age of five with coronavirus symptoms. It was previously only allowed for NHS and other essential workers with symptoms, plus other specific groups as defined by criteria in each of the devolved nations.

How to book a test through the referral system

1) Employer referral

The employer referral portal allows employers to refer GPs and other essential workers for a test at a regional drive-through facility. It is for symptomatic staff only.

It is a secure portal for employers to use to upload the full list of names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers.

If referred through this portal, essential workers will receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for themselves (if symptomatic) or their symptomatic household member(s) at a regional testing site.

In order to obtain a login, employers of essential workers should email with:

  • organisation name
  • nature of the organisation’s business
  • region
  • names (where possible) and email addresses of the 2 users who will load essential worker contact detail

Once employer details have been verified, two log-in credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal.

2) Self-referral

The online self-referral service is a way for GPs and other eligible groups of people to book either a drive-through appointment or order a home test kit.

GPs can access testing via the self-referral portal if they or their household are symptomatic – it is not a way for all asymptomatic GPs to get tested.

Drive-through regional sites and mobile units

– register personal details on the site

– receive a text message with 16-digit code to book an appointment, depending on availability

– click on text message link to book a specific appointment

– receive appointment confirmation in a text message and email, including a QR code, which needs to be shown to security at the regional site/mobile testing unit

Home delivery kit

– register personal details on the site

– receive an email with a one-time code

– invited to apply for up to five self-test kits to cover other members of the household displaying symptoms

– receive confirmation of order by email, delivery tracking details will also be provided

How does testing work in Wales?

Health and social care workers across Wales are referred for testing via their local health boards or trusts.

Referrals for social care workers are coordinated via local authorities or local resilience forums.

Where are the drive-through testing sites in the UK?

regional testing site status

regional testing site status

mobile testin unit status

mobile testin unit status

Source: NHS England, letter sent to NHS services on the second phase of the NHS response to Covid-19 [sent 29 April], Department of Health and Social Care, Self-referral portal: user guide [published 24 April], DHSC, Guidance on getting tested [updated 29 May], Scottish Government, Coronavirus (Covid-19): getting tested in Scotland [published 1 May], HSC Public Health Agency, Testing for Covid-19 [accessed 4 May], Welsh Government, Coronavirus Covid-19 testing process [published 29 April] , maps data supplied by the Department of Health and Social Care, as of 30 April