COVID-19 swab testing in primary care is 'next step', says NHS England

COVID-19 swab testing in primary care will be rolled out as part of the 'next step' in NHS England's expansion of access to tests, officials have confirmed.

Blood test (Photo: Tek Image/SPL/Getty Images)
Blood test (Photo: Tek Image/SPL/Getty Images)

Keziah Halliday, part of the NHS England COVID-19 response team, told a webinar last week that the health service was working to expand access to tests in primary care and to improve practices' ability to obtain test results.

She said NHS England was 'working on processes locally, or regionally, in order to be able to have testing available in other locations including in primary care'.

Ms Halliday added: 'We haven't set those up just yet. But that is the next step.'

COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus test results from a wider range of settings will also be made available soon through practice IT systems, she said.

Where tests are carried out with kits delivered to patients at home, or through the large regional or mobile testing sites set up by the health service during the pandemic, results are currently sent by text message to the patient.

She said: 'It is now the case that they are starting to put in a process for those results to be delivered into primary care systems, alongside other test results.

'I believe that those processes are currently being tested within EMIS and SystmOne and TPP and other providers and those should be going live very soon.'

Antibody tests

GPs have raised concerns over the workload implications as access to antibody testing is rolled out in primary care - warning it could add to workload without bringing any clinical benefit. Ms Halliday said more than 100,000 antibody tests had been carried out in the week since the test had been made available within the NHS.

She also sought to address concerns over the impact on the NHS workforce of the rollout of test and trace plans. She said rules around test and trace would apply 'to everyone' - confirming that anyone judged to have been in close contact with a covid-positive person would need to self-isolate for 14 days.

However, Ms Halliday added: 'The one thing to note, in relation to PPE and test and trace - if the person has been wearing appropriate PPE, that does not count as close contact. In any other setting, if somebody has been in contact and identified as contact, then they will need to isolate, in accordance with the test and trace rules.'

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