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COVID-19 testing for adult social care staff


Why is testing important?

Testing is important because it identifies people who are positive for COVID-19, so they are able to self-isolate, helping to stop the spread of infection; this includes people with and without any symptoms. 


 The different types of COVID-19 tests

There are two different types of test for COVID-19.  An antigen test will tell you if you currently have COVID-19. There are two different types of antigen test.

Polymerise Chain Reaction (PCR) tests detect the genetic material (RNA) of the virus in a person’s system.

PCR tests are sent to a laboratory for processing – due to the sensitivity of the test, it can detect even small amounts of the virus in a person’s system. Samples may subsequently be genotyped.

PCR tests are considered the most reliable and are recommended for people with symptoms and those identified as contacts.

Expired PCR test kits should not be used; any expired test kits will be automatically voided if sent for processing.  Please see our useful guide (562 kb) on locating expiry dates. 

Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests detect proteins associated with the virus in a person’s system – this type of test is particularly useful for people who are highly infectious but not showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

LFD tests produce results in 30 minutes; they are not sent to a laboratory for processing. It is important to wait the full period of time.

LFD testing is recommended for people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

LFD tests are not as accurate as PCR tests in all circumstances, but can detect a similar number of people with high levels of COVID-19 as PCR tests.

It is important all LFD results are registered (including positive, negative and void), ideally within twenty-four hours of the LFD test being taken, using the on-line reporting portal.

To support adult social care settings the NHS has produced a poster that summarises the differences between the different brands of LFD tests.

An antibody test is used to detect antibodies to the COVID-19 virus, this means a person has likely had the virus previously. More information about this test, and how to access this test, is found on our antibody testing webpage.



Testing for people with symptoms of COVID-19 

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

If a person has any of these symptoms, they and anybody they share a household with should start to isolate immediately and get a PCR test

If a person receives a positive PCR test result, they, and anybody they share a household with, and any other contacts, should continue to isolate for the specified period of time. This is usually ten days from when a person's symptoms started. Care home residents are required to isolate for fourteen days.

If a person receives a negative PCR test result, they can usually stop isolating, unless they are a contact of a person with COVID-19.

Locally, people may be asked to book a PCR test if they have one or more of commonly noted precautionary symptoms.



Testing for people without symptoms of COVID-19

Asymptomatic refers to people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

For information on the recommended asymptomatic testing regime for each adult social care setting, please see the relevant adult social care setting testing page.

Outside of the recommended adult social care testing regime, a person can order a supply of LFD test kits for use at home and/or access a local asymptomatic test site.

If an asymptomatic person tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate for the specified period of time from the date their COVID-19 test was taken.



Testing on discharge from hospital

Guidance for stepdown of infection control precautions and discharging COVID-19 patients (section 5) states all patients discharged to an adult care setting (care homes, supported living and extra care) should be tested forty-eight hours prior to discharge (unless they are exempt from testing) and the result communicated to the adult social care setting.



Confirmatory PCR tests

Currently, regardless of the adult social care setting type, if a person receives a positive LFD result, they should take a confirmatory PCR test within two days of the initial LFD test.

If a person receives a positive PCR result, they are required to stay in isolation for the specified period of time.

If a person receives a negative PCR result, and the PCR test was taken within two days, they can usually cease isolation.

If a person enters a positive LFD result in error, please contact ASCIncidentManagement@staffordshire.gov.uk for a further discussion.



90-day exemption rule

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they are exempt from LFD and PCR testing for 90 days after the positive test was taken, unless they display symptoms of COVID-19. 



Test and Trace 

The purpose of the test and trace system is to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In addition to testing, the system:

  • traces close contacts of any person who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • notifies any person who is required to isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been identified as a contact

A contact may be defined as:

  • close face to face contact (less than one metre) for any length of time
  • being with one to two metres for fifteen minutes or more
  • travelling together
  • household contacts

As per guidance, if social care staff are providing direct care to a person with COVID-19 and are wearing the correct PPE in accordance with the current IPC guidance, applicable to the adult social care setting type, they will not be considered as a contact for the purposes of contact tracing and isolation. 

As per national guidance, all venues receiving visitors or that have a customer reception, are legally required to display an NHS QR code poster. 

Whilst this guidance does not specifically reference adult social care settings, it is strongly encouraged. All adult social care settings must retain clear records of all persons on-site at any time (including people receiving support, staff and visitors) to enable effective contact tracing



COVID-19 reporting requirements

Adult care settings are required to adhere to any regulatory reporting requirements, as applicable to their service type; information can be found on the relevant care setting testing page.

Locally, we are advising all adult care settings to report cases of COVID-19 (suspected and confirmed) to Public Health England:

In addition, we are advising all adult care settings to report cases of COVID-19 (suspected and confirmed) to the the council:

If a staff member tests positive for COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence this was due to exposure in the workplace, adult care settings should notify RIDDOR.

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