Free lateral flow tests and where to get them in the UK

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Earlier this year, the UK government ended the mass distribution of free lateral flow tests before dropping all remaining COVID-19 restrictions. This “surprise decision” means that the general public — including university students — will no longer have access to these testing kits. 

While free lateral flow tests are no longer available in pharmacies, test sites, and community collection points such as libraries, schools, nurseries, and universities, you can still order free testing kits from the NHS if you satisfy these conditions.

free lateral flow test

Students can access free lateral flow tests should they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

Are you eligible for a free lateral flow test in England?

According to the NHS, you can order one pack of free lateral flow tests to be sent to your home every three days if you have a health condition – which means you’re eligible for new COVID-19 treatments. If you exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, however, you can expect to be sent a test without ordering it yourself.

Another category of people who will be allowed to order free lateral flow tests are those admitted to a hospital for a surgery or procedure. Chances are you may need to get tested before the surgery takes place.

If you work in the NHS or in social care, then you are most likely eligible for free lateral flow tests. So long as you are an NHS patient-facing staff, a staff who delivers NHS services through an independent healthcare provider, a social worker, a personal assistant, a Shared Lives carer, a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector, work in care homes, domiciliary care, extra care, and supported living services, or adult day care centres, you can order a pack and wait for it to reach you within three days.

Scotland

While most people in Scotland no longer need to test for coronavirus, you can still access testing kits if you:

  • Work in NHS health or social care settings
  • Have a health condition
  • Are going into hospital for surgery or a procedure
  • Are visiting a hospital or care home
  • You’re an unpaid carer
  • Are applying for the self-isolation support grant

However, health and social care workers in Scotland are strongly advised to access testing through their organisations. The same goes for those going into hospital – it is recommended that you get tested if the hospital requires you to do so.

Anyone else who is eligible for testing can order tests online or by dialling 119.

free lateral flow test

While there are no longer any free lateral tests in pharmacies students can order a free testing kit if they satisfy certain conditions. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Wales

As for Wales, free NHS lateral flow tests are no longer available for the general public unless they have COVID-19 symptoms. If that is the case, tests can be ordered online for home delivery or by calling 119. 

If a doctor or a specialist has said that you’re eligible for new COVID-19 treatments, you may be eligible for a free lateral flow test. If you are going to visit someone that is eligible for new COVID-19 treatments, your doctor has asked you to take a test, or if you already have COVID-19 and want to check if your test result is still positive after the fifth day of infection – you can order testing kits from the website.

Northern Ireland 

In Northern Ireland, COVID-19 tests are no longer available for most people without symptoms. However, testing is recommended for specific groups of people.

You should order free lateral flow tests online or collect for free from participating pharmacies if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you are working or visiting others in high-risk or vulnerable settings, you are a carer who provides close personal care for someone who is at higher risk if they contract COVID-19, or your healthcare professional has asked you to take a test.



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