Testing for Covid-19 in England

From 1 April the general public can no longer get free tests for coronavirus (Covid-19) from the NHS. Free testing services have closed at pharmacies, test sites, community collection points such as libraries, schools, nurseries and universities.

You can only get a free NHS Covid-19 test if…

You have a health condition which means you’re eligible for new Covid-19 treatments

If you have a health condition which means you’re eligible for new Covid-19 treatments, you should be sent a Covid-19 test to use if you have symptoms.

You can order free NHS tests yourself, if you have not received any tests yet or have used the tests you’ve been sent.

Find out more about testing guidance and new Covid-19 treatments

You’re going into hospital for surgery or a procedure

You may need to get tested if you’re due to have surgery or a procedure.

Your hospital will tell you how to get a test. Contact your hospital department if you have any questions.

You work in the NHS or in social care

You are eligible for free tests if you’re:

  • NHS patient-facing staff
  • staff who deliver NHS services through an independent healthcare provider, and have direct contact with NHS patients
  • a social worker
  • a personal assistant
  • a Shared Lives carer
  • a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector

In addition, testing will be provided for residential SEND, care home staff and residents during an outbreak and for care home residents upon admission. This also includes some staff in prisons and immigration removal centres.

If you work in care homes, domiciliary care, extra care and supported living services, and adult day care centres, you can also get free NHS tests. Find out more on gov.uk.

If eligible, you can order free NHS test kits online to be sent to your home, or if you cannot use the online service you can call 119.

If you still want to get tested and you’re not eligible for a free NHS test, you must pay for a Covid-19 test yourself.
You can buy a Covid-19 test from some pharmacies and retailers, in person or online.
Do not call 119, as you will not be able to get a test this way. You cannot order tests from NHS 111 or 999.

How does an LFD test work?

An LFD detects the presence or absence of coronavirus from a swab sample. The sample is mixed with a solution which releases and breaks up virus fragments. Some of the solution is then dropped onto the lateral flow device. The sample runs along the surface of the device’s absorbent strip, and 30-60 minutes later it will display either a positive or negative test result for Covid-19.

How are the LFD tests processed?

LFDs do not require a laboratory to process the test.

What will the LFD test tell me?

The test will provide you with a positive, negative or void result.

If your test result is positive, it is likely that you were infectious at the time the test was taken. You should follow the new guidance. You are no longer required to have a follow-up PCR test.

If your test is void, take another test as soon as possible.

A negative test result means it is likely that you do not have Covid-19. However, it is not a guarantee that you do not have Covid-19 and there’s still a chance you may be infectious. The test cannot detect very low levels of coronavirus in a sample, so if you have only recently been infected, and are in the incubation period, or if you have mostly recovered from the virus, the test may give a negative result. You therefore must continue to observe the guidelines on how to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

How long does it take to get the result?

The LFD test produces a result within 30-60 minutes.

Are LFD tests effective?

Yes. LFDs detect cases with high levels of the coronavirus and are very effective in finding people who don’t have symptoms but are very likely to transmit the disease without knowing it.

How do I register my LFD test result?

If testing at home, individuals will need to register their results online or call 119. If your test result is positive, it is likely that you were infectious at the time the test was taken. You should now follow the new guidance.

You are no longer required to have a follow-up PCR test.