Testing for Covid-19

Test and trace across the United Kingdom

Test and trace is in place in all 4 UK countries and varies slightly in each.


What has changed?

On 29 March the Department of Health and Social Care (UK/England) announced their policy on provision of free Lateral Flow Devices (LFD).

Will CSP members have to pay for LFD tests?

Members working in the following contexts will be able to access free LFDs:

  • NHS employees with frontline patient contact
  • Employees of NHS contracted services in contact with patients
  • Employees working in prisons
  • Social care and hospice staff during “periods of high prevalence".
  • Students on patient facing placements in setting where free LFTs are continuing (NHS, NHS commissioned services, hospices and social care in some contexts).
  • Independent physios going into care homes to treat patients where the care staff are eligible for free testing.

How can members eligible for free LFD tests access them?

Specifically related to eligible staff, tests can be accessed via the gov.uk website

The announcement does not cover the following:

  • Independent sector staff where the organisation is not a NHS contractor
  • Self-employed members
  • Non NHS public sector employers
  • Charities other than hospices
  • Education providers
  • Students on non-NHS placements

CSP has contacted the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) to ask why:

  • these other groups are not covered given the infection risks will be similar
  • whether physios not otherwise covered who are treating patients in social care settings are covered by the adult social care arrangements or not.

We will update the website when we have further information for members

What are the arrangements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

We are awaiting clarification on the policies of the governments in Scotland and Wales. 

In Northern Ireland from the evening of Friday 22 April you will no longer need to take a PCR test if you have Covid-19 symptoms. Testing sites across Northern Ireland will close from this date. 

If you have symptoms you should take a lateral flow test instead. These tests continue to be available free of charge from over 500 community pharmacies across Northern Ireland or by ordering online. Visit nidirect.gov.uk/testing from evening of 22 April to check if you are eligible.

If you do not have symptoms you are no longer advised to take a lateral flow test, unless you fall into one of the groups listed below. Access to tests for asymptomatic people in the general population will cease from the evening of 22 April.

  • All visitors to higher risk settings - care homes, hospitals/hospices – continue to be eligible for tests and should take a lateral flow test before their visit.
  • Those providing close personal care to someone in their own home, who may be at greater risk from Covid-19, are also eligible for tests.
  • You are also eligible if your GP/healthcare professional has asked you to take a test. Find out more about the changes.    

I am self-employed, do l I have to pay for Covid-19 lateral flow testing kits?

The Department for Health and Social Care in England has stopped funding free testing for health professionals unless they are providing NHS services, working in hospices, working in prisons or in some forms of social care.

The CSP are lobbying for an extension of free testing to all our members in patient facing roles.

I provide care to patients in care homes, can I access free testing?

If you provide direct patient care to care home residents you should be able to access testing on the same basis as the care home staff.

I provide care to patients in their own homes, can I access free testing?

The Department for Health and Social Care in England has stopped funding free testing for independent sector health professionals providing domiciliary care.

The CSP are lobbying for an extension of free testing to all our members in patient facing roles.

I am an employee in the independent sector can I access free regular testing?

If you work in an NHS commissioned service in England, provided by an independent provider, you should be able to access free lateral flow tests online.

If you work in a wholly independent service the Government is not funding free lateral flow tests. Your employer should be conducting risk assessments and these may result in them providing free tests.

The CSP are lobbying for an extension of free testing to all our members in patient facing roles

I am a student on a placement can I access free Covid-19 tests?

If you are a student on a patient facing placement in a setting where free LFDs are continuing such as NHS, NHS commissioned services, hospices and social care in some contexts you should be able to access free LFD tests.

How can I assess Covid-19 tests?

For most members working in contexts where free testing is continuing you should be able to order tests online. For practitioners treating patients in care home settings the arrangements will differ. Please talk to the care home management for advice on accessing testes.

What should I do if I test positive for Covid-19?

To reduce the spread of Covid-19 we advise you stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days after the day you took your test and follow government guidance.

What is the policy for other sectors?

Patient-facing healthcare staff who have symptoms of a respiratory infection, and who have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to attend work, are required to take and lateral flow device (LFD) test as soon as they feel unwell. They are no longer required to take a PCR test.

Staff who are close contacts of a case of Covid-19 are also no longer required to take a PCR test.

Advice on managing adult social care staff and residents can be found in  guidance for the adult social care sector. UKHSA has updated its UK IPC guidance with new Covid-19 pathogen-specific advice for health and care professionals. This advice should be read alongside the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual (NIPCM) for England and applies to all NHS settings or settings where NHS services are delivered.

18 March travel to England changes

If you arrive in England from abroad after 4am, Friday 18 March, you do not need to:

  • take any Covid-19 tests – before you travel or after you arrive
  • fill in a UK passenger locator form before you travel
  • This will apply whether you are vaccinated or not.
  • You also will not need to quarantine when you arrive, in line with current rules.

Other countries still have Covid-19 entry rules in place. You should check travel advice before you travel abroad from England.


    The Government in Wales stated that they will not change any Covid-19 rules before the next review due on 4 March. Wales remains at alert level zero.

    If you have tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) on any Covid-19 test (PCR or LFT), you must self-isolate for at least 5 full days.

    Day 1 is the day immediately following the day your symptoms started.

    If you do not have any symptoms or are unsure, you should count from the day immediately following the date you took your test (whichever is the earliest date).

    If you have tested positive you must self-isolate even if you have been fully vaccinated or are under 18. There are no exemptions. Self-isolation following a positive test result applies to adults and children of all ages.

    This guidance and testing regime applies to everyone in Wales.

    Special guidance for Health Workers

    The Welsh government has guidance for health and social care staff who are contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, it outlines a process of local risk assessment and mitigations for employers to apply accordingly.

    The majority of health and social care staff will be able to continue with their usual duties and should use lateral flow tests (LFT) for regular asymptomatic testing.

    We will keep this guidance under review to ensure additional measures remain justified and are proportionate to the current risk.


    In Scotland an update was sent to all stakeholders on 17 January which removed the requirement for fully-vaccinated health and social care staff to PCR test prior to returning to work.

    The Self-isolation Framework Policy has been updated and provides full details of the guidance.

    Find out more about Covid-19 national rules in Scotland

    Only people without symptoms may be eligible for exemption from self-isolation. To return to work in a health and social care setting, there are additional clinical safeguards in place.

    Northern Ireland

    The Department of Health stated that no decisions have been taken on any changes to Test & Trace in Northern Ireland.

    Information about national Covid-19 rules in Northern Ireland

    Members working for HSC should contact their managers for advice. The CSP understands that trusts may permit exemptions to HSC staff where:

    • the circumstances are 'exceptional'
    • there is a need to help alleviate pressure on health and social care services
    • the individual is double vaccinated and has had a 14-day clear period following vaccination
    • the individual has had a negative PCR test
    • the individual has daily negative lateral flow tests
    • suitable precautions are in place
    • a relevant manager has undertaken a risk assessment.

    We are not aware of any exemption for non-HSC practitioners.


    While fully vaccinated islanders do not usually have to self-isolate, if you work with vulnerable people you may be required to self-isolate.

    Whether you have to self-isolate following a contact with a Covid-positive person will be determined by Public Health Services. They can be contacted on 01481 225241.


    Self-isolation of Jersey residents applies where someone notified of a contact has Covid symptoms but has not had a negative PCR test.

    However local public health advice advises against attending hospital, GP practices and care homes if you have been in contact with a Covid-positive person but have no symptoms.

    Isle of Man

    Anyone who has received the both vaccines followed by 14 clear days since the second injection does not have to self-isolate where they have been identified as a high-risk contact of a positive case.

    What if a patient I was due to see is double vaccinated but lives with a family member who is a positive case?

    The rules now mean that the person does not have to self- isolate and may attend for a physiotherapy session. However, we advise members to continue to use the IPC's Covid screening tool to ensure you minimise the risk to your staff, your patients, yourself and in some instances, your business.

    Consent for test and trace

    You cannot share personal details unless:

    1. you have the patient's consent OR
    2. there is a lawful reason for you to do so

    Covid-19 is a serious communicable disease, which must be reported to Public Health authorities for disease management purposes, therefore if patients do not give their consent you may be required to report the information anyway. However, forewarning patients that you may be required to report information in the event of being asked to activate contact tracing is a good idea and can be discussed during the consent process.

    The Information Commissioner's Office provides more detail on the Data management requirements relating to test and trace.

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