This site is intended for health professionals only

Testing: How practice staff can book a test to find out if they have Covid-19

4 May 2020

Share this article

The Government has confirmed GPs and all other NHS staff will become eligible for coronavirus testing ‘whether or not they have symptoms’ in England.

Testing is already available to symptomatic NHS staff and other essential workers including those in emergency services, delivery drivers and journalists.

The Government has produced a guide explaining how essential workers can book a test at a regional testing site, mobile unit or via home delivery.

Who is eligible for testing in England?

  • patients, to inform their clinical diagnosis
  • all essential workers, including NHS and social care workers, with symptoms
  • anyone over 65 with symptoms
  • anyone with symptoms whose work cannot be done from home (for example, construction workers, shop workers, emergency plumbers and delivery drivers)
  • anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus and lives with any of those identified above

In addition:

  • NHS workers and patients without symptoms, in line with NHS England guidance
  • social care workers and residents in care homes (with or without symptoms)

Who is eligible for testing in Scotland?

The following who are self isolating because they are symptomatic or have household members who are symptomatic:

  • all symptomatic key workers and symptomatic members of their household over five years of age
  • all symptomatic other workers who cannot work from home and symptomatic members of their household over five years of age
  • all symptomatic over 65s and symptomatic members of their household over five years of age

Who is eligible for testing in Northern Ireland?

  • people who are being admitted to hospital
  • people who live in care homes
  • essential or key workers who are self-isolating due to having coronavirus-like symptoms or because a member of their household has symptoms
  • symptomatic people who live with key or essential workers

Who is eligible for testing in Wales?

  • symptomatic critical workers, including NHS and social care workers
  • one symptomatic household member of a critical worker

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

Employers of NHS staff and other essential workers can use a referral system to book their employee in 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. This is also the route available to other eligible groups.

However, In Scotland, the drive-through testing centres are only for people within a 90-minute drive of the location. In addition, NHS staff are advised to access testing through the health service until additional capacity becomes available through the UK Government testing route.

In Northern Ireland, staff working in GP practices, dentists and pharmacies should first speak with their line manager or local trust about the different testing arrangements in place for NHS staff.

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.

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 [email protected] 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.

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.

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], 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]