Nurses and other clinicians in general practice can refer patients for free testing if a Covid diagnosis is required ‘to support clinical decisions’, NHS England has said.
NHS England also confirmed patient-facing staff should continue twice-weekly asymptomatic Covid testing using lateral flow tests, in a primary care bulletin sent on Wednesday evening.
In addition, patient-facing staff who are contacts of a positive Covid case no longer need a PCR test to return to work, as long as they have no symptoms and test twice-weekly using lateral flow tests (LFTs).
Patient-facing symptomatic staff should test using LFTs and ‘follow the current return-to-work guidance’.
The bulletin said that ‘although the general public will not be offered Covid-19 tests routinely if symptomatic, there may be some instances where a clinician will want to offer a Covid-19 test as part of a diagnostic pathway to support clinical decisions’.
‘In these cases, patients should be directed to the gov.uk website to order their tests, where they will be asked to confirm that their clinician has requested this,’ it added.
It comes as free Covid testing for the majority of the population in England ended today, although it will continue to be free for the most vulnerable patients and patient-facing NHS staff. However, the NHS England bulletin said this would cease to include LAMP saliva tests.
The Office for National Statistics‘ latest infection survey had estimated that 1 in 16 people in England had Covid the previous week, with cases continuing to rise by 3-6% per day last week.