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Covid-19 Test to Release service: ‘Staff relish the responsibility’

Throat swab

By Saša Janković

05 Jul 2021

David Masson, pharmacist at Tavyside Pharmacy in Tavistock, Devon, talks to Saša Janković about offering travellers a Covid-19 Test to Release service.

Service type: Covid-19 Test to Release

Name and location of pharmacy: Tavyside Pharmacy, Tavistock, Devon

Name of (superintendent) pharmacist: David Masson

Why did you start offering this service?

We have been doing PCR and lateral flow tests since last year, and found we were getting lots of enquiries about Test To Release (TTR) once travel started opening up a bit more. We’ve been offering this service since international travel rules were released a little more in May.

What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo?

We were already used to doing Covid testing for our customers, and this is the same formation – a throat and nasal swab – so we were capable of doing it.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

If you arrive in England from a green or amber list country, the government’s Covid-19 travel regulations mean you have to quarantine at home or in the place you’re staying for 10 days – with the day you arrive being day 0 – and book and pay for a Covid test on or before day 2, and on or after day 8, of your quarantine.

Under the Test to Release scheme, arrivals from amber list countries can choose to pay for a private Covid-19 Test to Release test on day 5. Typically you’ll have to wait 24 to 36 hours to get your test results, and they if they are negative (and the result of your day 2 test result was negative or inconclusive) you can end your quarantine. If you do not want to opt into the Test to Release scheme, you will need to quarantine for 10 days.

We tend to discuss Test to Release when patients come in for a Fit to Fly test before they travel, as they need to book their return Covid travel tests, including Test to Release, for when they are coming back.

The main lab we work with at the moment is AlphaBiolabs, who have developed a system that allows us to create Covid travel packages for patients with Fit to Fly certificates first, and then depending on the country they are going to whatever may be required after that, including TTR.

If the customer starts with a Fit to Fly test we post the sample to AlphaBiolabs and they send us back a unique certificate for the customer’s passenger locator forms, which are all digital now. If the customer also asks us to book Test to Release we inform the lab, the lab sends the test to their home, and this generates another unique reference code that links them with PHE in case they need to be contacted through Track and Trace later on.

Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?

Not so much in this case, but when you can show you offer a good clinical spectrum of services it encourages people to take up more of them. We have a travel clinic, for example, so people might then come back to us for more PCR tests and travel vaccines in future.

How have patients responded to the service?

People like the Covid travel service we offer as it’s all joined up. We have assigned one of our dispensers to run it which gives a single point of contact for the customer, which they appreciate.

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

We’ve done three or four TTRs so far, since we started a few weeks ago.

How much do you charge for the service?

Fit to Fly is £90, post-travel day 2 and 8 Covid testing is £130, and the Test to Release test is £65.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes – staff relish the responsibility of offering this as a service because we have all missed the clinical interactions we were used to having with patients before the pandemic.

However, offering any kind of Covid testing is not always smooth. If it goes right it’s great, but if it goes wrong – if test samples don’t make it to the lab on time or results get delayed – then it’s very hard. Once you’ve put the test sample in the postbox, there are so many different cogs you are relying on to make the service work, and all of these are out of your control.

In an ideal world, the most efficient way it to do it would be if you were located near a lab where you could drop samples off yourself.

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