Covid-19 PCR Antigen Test & Test and Trace Next item Interim Foundation...

Covid-19 PCR Antigen Test & Test and Trace

This Post covers three points: –

1)   Staff are able to request a Covid -19 PCR test – antigen testing (Ref. NCL CCG)

2)   Test and Trace – disagreeing with assessments and escalating the case (Ref. PSNC)

3)   Turning off the NHS Covid -19 App for all staff when working in a pharmacy (Ref. PSNC)


1)    Frontline staff testing for Covid-19 in North Central London

a) Who can get tested?

  • All NHS staff, including Community pharmacists and their staff with Covid-19 symptoms.
  • An individual (adult or child) with Covid-19 symptoms living in the same household as a member of NHS staff or staff working in a care setting.

For testing to be accurate you (or the person in your household needing testing) should be on days 1–3 of the onset of Covid-19 symptoms at the time the swab is taken.

Testing is only open to people with a booked and confirmed appointment letter, at the designated time. Under no circumstances should anyone travel to a testing location without a confirmed booking.

b) What Covid-19 tests are available?

  • A PCR test – antigen testing– which will confirm if you currently have Covid-19.
  • It is not an antibody test to identify if you have had or are immune to the virus.

c) Where can I get a test?

NCL CCH has set up some Local Testing Hubs across NCL. Can you safely get to one of the

following locations? If so, please book via the below details: –


i) Local Hubs

Location To book
Huntley Street (Kings Cross)   Please email with your name, mobile number and organisation, and someone will contact you within 24 hours.
Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (Drive-through) Please email with your first name, surname, organisation you work for, phone number and car registration number.


ii) Drive-through testing

If you can’t get to the above locations but can drive, please use the below details to request a drive through slot at one of the national test centres. To see how the drive though testing site works, please see this animation.

You or someone in your household will need to have a car and be able to drive to access these test sites. Taxis or other means of public transportation are not permitted.

To book an appointment for the drive-through testing services please visit the

Essential workers  self-referral portal and follow instructions provided.


iii) Tests delivered at home 

If you are unable to attend the NCL testing hubs or drive-through sites, self-administrated home

testing is now also available. The results from home testing will take longer due to the nature of


To order a home testing kit please visit the Essential workers self-referral portal and follow instructions provided.

d) How will I get my results?

You will receive your results by text, by phone or by email, depending on the testing site you use. When the results are received, it is important that staff follow the national guidance for organisations and individuals on the next steps:

  • If a member of staff tests negative, then they can return to work if they are well enough to do so and should discuss this with their employing organisation.
  • If an individual living in the same household as a member of staff tests negative then the staff member can return to work without themselves being tested, as long as they remain symptom free and the whole household can come out of self-isolation.
  • If you or a member of your household has tested positive, you should stay in isolation and contact your employer to agree the best course of action.

NHS advice on self-isolation can be found here.

In all cases, the staff member should contact their line manager to discuss the outcome of their test and return to work.

We will be keeping this page updated with the latest information relating to where and how staff can be tested, so please do check back if you experience symptoms to see what might be the best testing approach for you.


2. Test and Trace – disagreeing with assessments and escalating the case

NHS Test and Trace aims to help trace recent close contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and, if necessary, notifies these people that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus. Therefore, if one member of pharmacy staff tests positive for coronavirus, a contact tracer may contact the pharmacy and assess whether other pharmacy staff members should be asked to self-isolate.

The result may be that the pharmacy has to close.

PSNC is now recommending key actions for community pharmacy contractors on NHS Test and Trace following increasing reports that contractors are experiencing issues with the service.

It seems that, despite pharmacies being a healthcare setting, COVID-19 contact tracers are not taking into account the current national advice on use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other mitigations which seek to prevent the spread of infection. This has resulted in cases where one pharmacy staff member tests positive, and the whole team is then told to go into self-isolation.

Further complications around access to testing for pharmacies have meant some contractors have had difficulty registering as employers of essential workers and, currently, asymptomatic pharmacy staff asked to self-isolate cannot get tested to check if they are negative so they can return to work more quickly. This is all impacting on the continuity of service provision and therefore reducing patient access to essential medicines.

Whilst decisions must be taken in the public interest to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading, it currently appears that community pharmacies are being treated differently from other healthcare settings and the importance of continuity of service is not being recognised sufficiently.

Key actions for contractors:-

If one member of staff tests positive and the pharmacy is contacted by a contact tracer and you are not satisfied with the decisions made, PSNC recommends that contractors:

  1. Escalate the case to the Public Health England (PHE) local health protection team – be persistent and ask for the referral, and to speak to the local health protection team.
  2. With the local health protection team, ask for the mitigations in place at the pharmacy to be taken into account as for any healthcare establishment – as, for example, a GP practice.
  3. Involve the NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) regional team or local office.

If these approaches are not successful, or for example, working in a dispensary is considered a close contact regardless of any mitigations taken, then there may need to be regular testing of pharmacy staff to ensure all do not have to self-isolate when one tests positive. It may be helpful if pharmacy staff report to Test and Trace that they work at a pharmacy, with the name of the contractor or relevant person who Test and Trace should contact.


3. NHS COVID-19 App guidance for Health Professionals

Pharmacy teams are reminded that all pharmacy staff when working in the pharmacy premises, if they have downloaded the NHS Covid-19 App for track and trace, should disable the App by turning Bluetooth off on their devices whilst in the pharmacy.

Best wishes
Yogendra Parmar