Community pharmacy teams are among the asymptomatic NHS workers who will be eligible for a bi-weekly Covid-19 test from the end of next week, NHS England has confirmed.

Following training on how to use the device, all asymptomatic patient-facing NHS staff will be asked to test themselves at home twice a week before coming into work.

The test, known as a lateral flow device, has only recently been approved following ‘further scientific validation’ and can provide tests results in less than one hour.

In a letter sent to staff yesterday (9 November), Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, confirmed that the tests would be made available after the Test and Trace service committed to supplying ‘sufficient test kits’.

The initial rollout, due to start this week, will cover 34 trusts and over 250,000 staff, with the full programme due to begin ‘by the end of next week’, Mr Powis said.

The letter acknowledged that the lateral flow test is less sensitive than other Covid-19 tests and staff will therefore be asked to test themselves twice a week, rather than just once to ‘mitigate the lower specificity’. All positive tests will then be confirmed by using a PCR test.

National Covid-19 testing of NHS staff is already underway, but only in parts of the country where there is a Covid-19 outbreak.

‘Over 70,000 NHS staff have been tested asymptomatically in those areas in recent days,’ Mr Powis said.

The lateral flow device is already being used as part of a mass asymptomatic testing programme, which was rolled out in Liverpool last week (6 November)