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COVID-19 information for care providers: Testing


  1. Overview
  2. Infection control in care homes
  3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  4. Testing
  5. Financial support
  6. Car sharing
  7. COVID-19 vaccine for care home staff

Types of tests available

There are three testing routes currently available to care home managers:

  • Staff testing - available through GOV.UK (symptomatic only)
  • Resident testing - only available through the new online portal (symptomatic and asymptomatic)
  • Whole home testing - you can also test all staff and residents (asymptomatic) through the new online portal
  • Lateral flow testing kits - used to test designated visitors, staff and residents to identify anyone who is carrying the virus and currently not displaying any symptoms (asymptomatic)

Lateral flow tests

Care homes are now able to use lateral flow testing (LFT) with staff as part of the routine testing programme. 

Staff are advised to have a LFT test twice a week, and a PCR test once per week. 

It was suggested to complete the first LFT and PCR test on a Monday each week, and the second LFT on Thursday/Friday of the same week. 

Any staff member with a positive LFT result must isolate immediately and organise a PCR test to confirm. If the PCR test result comes back as negative, the staff member can return to work. If the PCR is positive the staff member must complete 10 days isolation, and come out of isolation on the 11th day. They can return to work on or after the 11th day so long as they are well enough to do so.

A care home detecting a positive case should implement 7 day LFT testing for staff only. LFT's should not be used on care home residents for either routine testing or during an outbreak. If you are concerned about the covid status of a resident during an outbreak, the health protection swabs should be used and until the result is returned you should treat that resident as positive for covid, isolate them and cohort until a result is returned.

GOV.UK: Care Home Testing Guidance (England)

LFD self testing

Care home staff are now able to do their own Lateral Flow Device (LFDs) test. This means staff are now able to take and register their twice weekly LFD tests at home, before they arrive at the care home to start work. There is self-test guidance available for staff, see self test guidance (PDF)

If you have enough LFD tests to be able to provide each care home staff member with a box of 25 LFD tests, you can start this process.

If you do not have enough kits, please do not ring 119. You can place your order for LFDs through the online replenishment portal:

GOV.UK: Order coronavirus (COVID-19) tests

Applying for a test - whole home testing

To apply, you must be either:

  • the care home manager registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC)
  • a Local Director of Public Health or one of their representatives

What you need to apply:

  • the care home's CQC registration number
  • total number of residents, including number of residents with coronavirus symptoms
  • total number of staff, including agency staff
  • your contact details

Care homes will only be able to access whole home testing once.

For homes that have accessed the portal, it's important that any swabs taken are collected by the courier within 48 hours and are kept at room temperature during this time.

If you think your care home has a coronavirus outbreak but no one has been tested yet, contact the Local Health Protection team on 0300 303 8596 (option 1). They will carry out the first tests. When you have applied, you will get an email telling you when the tests will be delivered.

What the test involves

The test involves taking a swab of the inside of your resident or staff member's nose and the back of their throat, using a long cotton bud.

See Government guidance on coronavirus testing, including who is eligible for a test and how to get tested.

This test only tells you if you have coronavirus at the time of taking the test. It does not tell you if you have ever had coronavirus in the past.

Problems accessing the online portal

If you have any problems with the online portal, contact the helpline on 0300 303 2713.

Lines are open from 7am to 11pm every day. 

Next page: Financial support

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