COVID-19 Lateral Flow Test (LFT) Asymptomatic Staff Testing FAQs

These are the specific FAQs related to the use of lateral flow antigen tests in Northern Ireland Health and Social Care. For all questions on HR processes following a positive test and related isolation questions, please refer to your organisation’s guidelines.

Table of Contents

  1. Administering the test 
  2. Q1. What type of test are we rolling out? 
  3. Q2. Who administers the test?  
  4. Q3. Is the regular asymptomatic testing mandatory or voluntary? 
  5. Q4. Which staff members in healthcare will have access to lateral flow antigen tests for regular asymptomatic testing? 
  6. Q5. Doctors on training programmes move between HSC organisations, how should their testing programme work? 
  7. Q6. Should students on placement in a healthcare organisation take part in testing?
  8. Q7. How frequently should a contractor/temporary worker be working in an organisation to be included in testing?
  9. Q8. Should staff members continue testing after they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine? 
  10. Q9. Can these tests be used for patients? 
  11. Q10. Can these tests be used if staff have symptoms of COVID-19?
  12. Q11. Can other members of a household who are also carrying out LFT testing share test kits?
  13. Q12. How frequently should staff be tested? 
  14. Q13. When should staff test? 
  15. Q14. Where should staff test? 
  16. Q15. Should staff continue swabbing during annual leave? 
  17. Q16. What should staff do with the used test kits? 
  18. Q17. What happens if the buffer solution is accidentally consumed? 
  19. Q18. If staff are already regularly being tested through existing regimes – such as participation in COVID-19 studies – should this be replaced by lateral flow tests? 
  20. Q19. Can tests be used as a response to COVID-19 outbreaks? 
  21. Q20. How long does it take to do the test?
  22. Q21. Do I have to share my result if I am going into a care home? 
  23. Q22. Can I get more tests from another route that is more convenient for me e.g. gov.uk website?
  24. Pack size of test kits supplied
  25. Q23. Why are there different box sizes of test kits?
  26. Q24. Are the 25 and 7 unit size test kits different to each other?
  27. Below are FAQs specifically relating to the box size containing Innova 25 lateral flow tests.
  28. Q25. What is the shelf life of the extraction (buffer) solution once opened?
  29. Q26. How do I get additional bottles of extraction (buffer) solution as I don’t have any left (due to spillage etc.) but I still have kits left in my box of 25 kits?
  30. Q27. Why is the testing method different from that described in the manufacturer’s original instructions for use? 
  31. Reporting the test result 
  32. Q28. How should the results of these tests be reported? 
  33. Acting on the test result 
  34. Q29. What happens if a staff member gets a positive result? 
  35. Q30. Should patients who have been in direct care of a staff member who tests positive with lateral flow be tested?
  36. Ordering and delivery of test kits 
  37. Q31. Do healthcare organisations pay when ordering test kits?
  38. Q32. How do HSC Trusts (including NIAS) order test kits?
  39. Q33. For HSC Trusts with multiple sites can you confirm they can have tests delivered to multiple sites?
  40. Q34 How do primary care contractors order test kits? 
  41. Q35. How many boxes of tests should primary care contractors order? 
  42. Q36. Should the tests be kept in specific conditions; will they require security like Tamiflu did? 
  43. Q37. Can organisations procure their own supply of lateral flow tests? 

 

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Administering the test 

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Q1. What type of test are we rolling out? 

Healthcare workers are being offered lateral flow antigen tests, using the 3 following devices:

  1. Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test (packs of 25) Information and instructions can be found at: www.pha.site/LFDtest 
  2. Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) COVID-19 Self-Test (Rapid Antigen Test) (packs of 7)

Information and instructions can be found at: How to do a coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow test at home - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) The GOV.UK website has information on different brands of lateral flow test. The pack of 7 tests used in NI Health and Social Care is the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) COVID-19 Self-Test (Rapid Antigen Test) and the instruction materials online are titled ‘Throat and Nose test.’

  1. Surescreen: SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test Cassette (packs of 25) Information and instructions can be found at: Lateral flow testing for primary care staff | HSC Public Health Agency (hscni.net)
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Q2. Who administers the test?  

The tests are self-administered. An instruction video and written instructions, including on interpretation of results, are available– please see links in question 1 above. 

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Q3. Is the regular asymptomatic testing mandatory or voluntary? 

Regular asymptomatic testing is voluntary, but staff should be encouraged to be involved in regular testing to benefit their colleagues and patients. 

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Q4. Which staff members in healthcare will have access to lateral flow antigen tests for regular asymptomatic testing? 

Asymptomatic testing is available to patient-facing healthcare workers in Northern Ireland. This includes staff whose work regularly brings them onto wards and clinical environments; students and trainees on clinical placement; volunteers working on wards and laboratory staff.

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Q5. Doctors on training programmes move between HSC organisations, how should their testing programme work? 

All doctors in relevant organisations should be included. If they move to another organisation and still have a supply of tests, they should keep these tests and use them while working at the next organisation, unless provided with another means of asymptomatic testing. For new starters, if they don’t already have tests from a previous employer, they should be provided with tests if they are working in the relevant organisations.

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Q6. Should students on placement in a healthcare organisation take part in testing?

Yes, students and trainees on clinical placements can participate in testing.   

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Q7. How frequently should a contractor/temporary worker be working in an organisation to be included in testing?

Patient-facing staff who are regularly working in your organisation should be included in the testing programme.

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Q8. Should staff members continue testing after they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Yes, patient-facing staff should continue to test even though they have had the vaccine. Back to top

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Q9. Can these tests be used for patients? 

Tests issued through the staff testing programme should not be used for testing patients. There are separate arrangements for testing of patients.

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Q10. Can these tests be used if staff have symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes. New guidance was issued on 4th May 2022, which states that health and care workers who have symptoms of Covid-19 should take an LFT test instead of a PCR test.

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Q11. Can other members of a household who are also carrying out LFT testing share test kits?

No. Other members of a household who have received a test kit from their employer, or through another means, should use the kit issued to them. Likewise, the healthcare staff members should only use the kit issued to them. This is to ensure adequate supplies are available for groups carrying out testing and that test kits are only used for the purpose for which they are issued.

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Q12. How frequently should staff be tested? 

Asymptomatic patient-facing staff should test themselves twice weekly every three to four days to fit with shift patterns and leave requirements; for example, Wednesday and Sunday, or Monday and Thursday.  

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Q13. When should staff test? 

Patient-facing staff should perform the test before attending work, leaving enough time before the start of their shift to alert their employer who may need to arrange cover, should their lateral flow test be positive. 

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Q14. Where should staff test? 

Staff should conduct the test at home if possible. 

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Q15. Should staff continue swabbing during annual leave? 

Staff may continue to swab while on annual leave of longer than a week, but it is not a requirement. 

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Q16. What should staff do with the used test kits? 

Staff can safely dispose of the test items in their normal household waste but should pour any residual buffer solution away first. 

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Q17. What happens if the buffer solution is accidentally consumed? 

As set out in the manufacturer’s safety instructions, the buffer solution is not hazardous; however, if accidentally ingested, a medical practitioner should be informed.  

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Q18. If staff are already regularly being tested through existing regimes – such as participation in COVID-19 studies – should this be replaced by lateral flow tests? 

If staff are participating in research studies where the frequency of testing is not weekly (e.g. fortnightly or monthly) they should also undertake twice-weekly LFD self-testing.  For example, patient facing staff members participating in the SIREN study should also be part of the twice-weekly LFD testing.

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Q19. Can tests be used as a response to COVID-19 outbreaks? 

Should an outbreak be declared in your organisation, testing regimes should be discussed in line with your normal organisational response. 

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Q20. How long does it take to do the test?

The test should take no longer than 5 minutes to undertake, with a wait of up to 30 minutes for results, depending on the type of test used. It is important that you follow the specific instructions for the type of tests that you have been given (see question 1).

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Q21. Do I have to share my result if I am going into a care home? 

Visitors to care homes should continue to follow the care home policy for use of PPE and other infection prevention and control measures. If you have been tested, please share your result with the care home manger.   

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Q22. Can I get more tests from another route that is more convenient for me e.g. gov.uk website?

You should try to order the LFDs through the healthcare worker route, as this assures your organisation that its staff are compliant with testing requirements. If you do access LFDs through a different route, please ensure that your organisation is aware that you are participating fully in a twice weekly LFD testing regimen.

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Pack size of test kits supplied

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Q23. Why are there different box sizes of test kits?

The test kits issued to healthcare staff in Northern Ireland contain either 25 or 7 lateral flow tests. Considerations of available stocks and the method of delivery and replenishment to organisations have been taken into account when deciding which healthcare staff groups receive which box size. Staff should use the test kit supplied to them by their employer.

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Q24. Are the 25 and 7 unit size test kits different to each other?

Yes, there are slight differences in the materials provided (e.g. how the buffer solution is included) as part of the test kit in the box, and the instructions for use are specific to the test kit.

In the case of the 7-unit size test kits, staff should follow the instructions for use provided to them with their test kit.

In the case of the 25-unit size test kits, staff should not use the instructions that are provided in the kits. Instead, there are separate sets of instruction materials which should be used. Links to these are below:

Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test (packs of 25): https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/2021-01/Lateral%20Flow%20self-swab%20instructions%20final%2021.01.pdf

Surescreen: SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test Cassette (packs of 25): Lateral flow testing for primary care staff | HSC Public Health Agency (hscni.net)

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Below are FAQs specifically relating to the box size containing Innova 25 lateral flow tests.

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Q25. What is the shelf life of the extraction (buffer) solution once opened?

The shelf life of extraction solution is 2 years, even after it is opened. 

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Q26. How do I get additional bottles of extraction (buffer) solution as I don’t have any left (due to spillage etc.) but I still have kits left in my box of 25 kits?

Additional bottles of extraction solution are not available for distribution, if you have run out of extraction solution your organisation will need to provide you with a replacement box of test kits. 

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Q27. Why is the testing method different from that described in the manufacturer’s original instructions for use? 

This is to enable easier self-administration of the test. This is based on advice from experts.

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Reporting the test result 

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Q28. How should the results of these tests be reported? 

Patient-facing staff are asked to record all results (positive, negative, invalid / void) from lateral flow devices. The results from the lateral flow antigen test will be documented at home by the individual using the NHS Digital online platform. Staff can access the NHS Digital platform on www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result

Note that staff working in Northern Ireland but resident in the Republic of Ireland should enter their employer organisation postcode for the home address postcode on the digital portal.

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Acting on the test result 

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Q29. What happens if a staff member gets a positive result? 

Staff should inform their manager of a positive result in the normal way. The staff member should report their result on the NHS Digital online platform. Staff can access the NHS Digital platform on www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result

All staff should follow the updated guidance contained in the following correspondence from the CMO on 4th May 2022 https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/doh-hss-md-17-2022_0.pdf

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Q30. Should patients who have been in direct care of a staff member who tests positive with lateral flow be tested?

Your organisation’s protocols for tracing contacts should be followed. 

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Ordering and delivery of test kits 

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Q31. Do healthcare organisations pay when ordering test kits?

No. Test kits are centrally procured and provided to organisations participating free of charge.

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Q32. How do HSC Trusts (including NIAS) order test kits?

Lateral flow test kits are supplied to participating Trust organisations and NIAS via the BSO Procurement and Logistics Service. A process has been put in place to deliver test kits supplies and is managed centrally by the Trust organisation.

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Q33. For HSC Trusts with multiple sites can you confirm they can have tests delivered to multiple sites?

Due to the extent of the logistics required, the BSO Procurement and Logistics Service can only have a single delivery point for each organisation. Trusts will need to deliver the kits to the various sites themselves.

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Q34 How do primary care contractors order test kits? 

The ordering and delivery process for lateral flow antigen test kits to primary care contractors is managed via the online Salesforce platform that has been put in place by NHS Digital. Primary care contractors are contacted directly by PHA/SPPG to invite them to register on the system. Contractors manage their orders via this portal taking account of staff numbers and stock requirements.  

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Q35. How many boxes of tests should primary care contractors order? 

Primary care contractors will be able to order enough test kits for each member of patient facing staff delivering Health and Social Care services. The Salesforce platform allows organisations to order lateral flow tests for all patient-facing staff members on a regular basis.

Note that there are some minimum order quantities so smaller organisations will receive a minimum size order. Further information is available upon registration on the platform.

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Q36. Should the tests be kept in specific conditions; will they require security like Tamiflu did? 

Tests can be stored in typical warehouse conditions; they do not need refrigeration but should be kept out of direct sunlight and not be exposed to heat. They are not expected to require any additional security than other items of equipment deliveries. 

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Q37. Can organisations procure their own supply of lateral flow tests? 

Lateral flow tests are purchased and provided centrally, and organisations should not purchase them directly from suppliers. 

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