One in four GP practices take up COVID-19 swab testing role

More than 1,700 GP practices have registered to receive COVID-19 swab kits in a move that could significantly boost access to testing across England.

COVID-19 swab test (Photo: Paul Biris/Getty Images)
COVID-19 swab test (Photo: Paul Biris/Getty Images)

More than 68,000 test kits have been ordered from the test and trace service less than a month after NHS England announced plans to roll out testing capability to practices.

Officials confirmed earlier this month that practices choosing to opt in to the voluntary scheme would be able to order 40 test kits per week initially - with the potential to step up to 200 kits per week if they are using in excess of the lower amount.

GP practices can use their discretion to offer tests where clinically appropriate to symptomatic patients, staff or household members of staff, NHS England has said.

COVID-19 tests

Patients and staff offered the tests are expected to self-administer swabs, with 'no expectation' that they should be administered by GP practice staff.

NHS England has said it hopes wider access to tests - which is being rolled out alongside existing test centres - will help 'streamline patient care and/or increase improve access to testing for patients who would otherwise be unlikely to get a test via the primary testing routes, for example, due to barriers around language, distance, disability or digital inclusion'.

The move comes after repeated calls from GPs for better access to testing in primary care - and criticism of the failure to involve primary care in the test and trace programme.

GPonline reported in October on BMA polling that found 60% of GPs reported a colleague off sick or self-isolating in the previous fortnight, with many isolating while awaiting test results.

A leading global health expert told an RCGP event last month that the failure to involve general practice in test and trace had been 'a disaster and a national shame' - and a group of doctors wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine last week that the millions of pounds spent on outsourcing the service should be diverted to primary care and local public health services.

Watch: GP shows how to self-administer swab test

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