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NHS England has confirmed that asymptomatic COVID-19 testing will be made available to all patient-facing NHS staff, after receiving confirmation from Test and Trace over the weekend that sufficient test kits can be supplied.

Signed by Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement, Pauline Philip, National Director for Emergency and Elective Care for NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer at NHS England and NHS Improvement, a letter has been circulated to NHS staff throughout England discussing how this twice-weekly COVID-19 testing will be carried out.

The letter details that with appropriate training, patient-facing NHS staff will be able to test themselves at home twice a week, with results available before coming into work.

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34 NHS Trusts will deploy this asymptomatic testing this week – benefitting over 250,000 staff – with the other tests rolling out at the remaining trusts the following week.

“While lateral flow devices have a lower specificity and sensitivity than rt qPCR tests, testing twice weekly helps mitigate the sensitivity considerations, and to mitigate the lower specificity, all positive results will be retested via PCR,” the letter details. “This will start from next week.

“In addition, as previously notified, NHS trusts should continue to use their own PCR laboratory capacity for appropriate staff testing, and increasing amounts of LAMP saliva testing will be made available to hospitals by Test and Trace in November and December.

“The Innova lateral flow device (currently already in use in Liverpool and selected for wider rollout) comes in boxes of 25; these boxes contain 25 cartridges, swabs etc and two bottles of buffer. To support the introduction of lateral flow testing, standard operating procedure, training materials, including a training video for trainers, a video for NHS staff, and an instruction leaflet will all be made available shortly.”

The letter states that an NHS England and NHS Improvement colleague will be in touch with patient-facing NHS staff to tell them more about delivery details and further logistical information in the coming days.

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