• Testing available for NHS staff outside acute settings and their household 
  • But those tested must be in first three days of the onset of symptoms
  • The test is still effective at five days

Coronavirus testing is to be rolled out to a wider group of NHS staff and their households, as long as the onset of covid-19 symptoms took place within the previous three days.

In a letter sent yesterday (12 April) to NHS regional directors and trust leaders, national director for emergency and elective care Pauline Philip and Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Foundation Trust chief executive Sarah-Jane Marsh, said the NHS is now able to expand its “testing offer” as the health service increases capacity.

The letter said testing would be offered to a “wider group of staff and household members across the NHS, including individuals working in the NHS outside of acute care, for example, mental health, primary care, community services and other staff as determined locally”.

To meet the testing criteria an individual with covid-19 symptoms must live in the same household as a member of NHS staff or work in the NHS themselves.

However, the letter stipulates they must be in the first three days of the onset of their covid-19 symptoms at the time the swab is taken, “although testing is considered effective up until day five”.

“No testing should be undertaken after day five, unless it’s for a specific reason agreed on a case by case basis by local microbiologists,” the letter said.

HSJ understands the short testing window is a reflection of the rapidly declining accuracy of the test, not testing capacity. Testing beyond three days is only likely if a peron tests negative, but continues to show symptoms.

The letter also reiterates that if a member of staff tests negative they can return to work “if they are well enough to do so” and if a member of the household tests negative, the NHS worker can return without themselves being tested.