Selected pharmacies in Dudley started offering lateral flow rapid antigen Covid-19 tests yesterday (16 December) as part of a national pilot scheme, according to Dudley Council.
More than 20 independent pharmacies will be providing the tests to patients locally, with the number expected to increase during December and into the new year, the Council said.
The lateral flow tests, which are free of charge and available by appointment only, are for people who are displaying no symptoms of the virus and provide results in 20 to 30 minutes.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed that the initiative is part of the Government’s plan to expand asymptomatic testing for Covid-19, which currently involves a weekly allocation of antigen tests being sent to public health directors.
In Dudley, the council has opted to offer the tests through pharmacies and is also planning a separate testing site – as part of the pilot – for fire service crews only.
Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: ‘This is a really innovative project and we are the first local authority in the country to use pharmacies to roll out these tests.
‘We know that between one in four and one in three people who have coronavirus never show any symptoms but that does not mean they are not infectious. The symptom-free tests will help us to identify and disrupt the chain of infection.’
Olutayo Arikawe, a pharmacist at Priory Pharmacy – which is taking part in the scheme – added: ‘The tests are quick and simple to do and people get their results really quickly.
‘Taking one of these tests when you are symptom free is a big step in terms of breaking the chain of the virus and reducing transmission.’
Anyone who gets a positive result from the lateral flow rapid antigen test will be expected to book a second standard test at one of Dudley’s four testing sites, the Council said.
Testing in pharmacies
This follows the launch of private Covid testing services in two of the large multiples.
Last month, LloydsPharmacy’s parent company McKesson announced that it had launched rapid antigen tests at two of its pharmacies – the LloydsPharmacy concession in London’s Oxford Street Selfridges store, and at the John Bell & Croyden pharmacy in Marylebone.
The tests – which are available to patients who are not exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms – cost £229 for same-day testing and £199 for next-day results.
Meanwhile, in October, Boots announced it was launching a private 12-minute Covid testing service providing same-day results for asymptomatic patients, as well as a 48-hour testing service for people travelling abroad, both costing £120.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has not taken a position on pharmacies offering any form of Covid-19 tests apart from rapid antibody test kits, which it has previously said are not appropriate for pharmacies to be ‘selling and recommending’ at ‘this point in time’.
The GPhC website states: ‘We have not taken a position on any other form of Covid-19 test. This is a complex and rapidly changing landscape and so pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals must take responsibility when deciding whether to offer other types of tests.’
It also urges pharmacies to consider relevant guidance from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and public health bodies, and the GPhC’s own regulatory standards, as well as carrying out ‘a full and thorough’ risk assessment.