Frequently asked questions about lateral flow testing
We have collated the most common queries about the testing process.
- Who can access lateral flow tests?
- Who can collect home self-test kits?
- How are self-test kits used and how do I register results?
- What should I do if I receive a positive result from a lateral flow test?
- I’ve been identified as a contact of a positive COVID-19 case by NHS Test & Trace, can I book a lateral flow test?
- A member of my household has tested positive for COVID-19, can I book a lateral flow test?
- I booked a lateral flow test, but I now have COVID-19 symptoms. Can I still attend?
- I can no longer attend my appointment, how do I cancel it?
- How often should I book a lateral flow test?
- Can a lateral flow test show if I have previously had COVID-19?
- I have been given the COVID-19 vaccine. Should I still book a lateral flow test?
- I am having some flu-like symptoms following my COVID-19 vaccination, can I still have my lateral flow test?
These free tests are now available to everyone as national restrictions are eased.
Criteria for lateral flow testing does not include those requiring a negative COVID-19 test result prior to or after international travel. If you have a legally permitted reason to travel internationally, you must use a private test provider. The Government’s page on travel advice during Coronavirus provides some more specific guidance.
Home self-test kits are now available to everyone from the collection points listed on the main page. You can collect two packs of seven tests per visit (14 tests in total) for use by you and your household / bubble and in exceptional cases up to 4 packs. As with all lateral flow tests, twice weekly testing is recommended.
Self-test kits include a comprehensive instruction booklet with full information on how to administer the test and register results. If it is your first time taking a lateral flow test, staff at the collection point are trained in their use and will be happy to talk you through the kits and process when you collect. For any further help or guidance required please contact 119 or email our customer service team at email@example.com
- You and everyone you live with must self-isolate immediately and follow the guidance from NHS Test and Trace.
- You will be required to undertake a confirmatory PCR test within 48 hours to make sure the lateral flow test result was accurate. This can be done by booking an appointment at your local testing site or ordering a home test online via Get a free NHS test to check if you have coronavirus or by calling 119. You must not attend any Lateral Flow Testing site on receipt of a positive result as they do not offer PCR tests.
- You should arrange your confirmatory PCR test immediately. If you do not take the test within 48 hours, you and the people you live with will need to self-isolate for the full 10 days. A negative confirmatory PCR test will allow those few individuals who receive a false positive and their contacts to be released from self-isolation. While awaiting the confirmatory test result you and everyone you live with must self-isolate by law.
I’ve been identified as a contact of a positive COVID-19 case by NHS Test & Trace, can I book a lateral flow test?
If you have been contacted and told you need to self-isolate, then you must immediately self-isolate for 10 days and are not allowed to leave your home for a Lateral Flow (asymptomatic) test, even if you do not currently have symptoms. Find out more about self-isolation.
If you have been contacted and told you need to self-isolate, then you must immediately self-isolate for 10 days and are not allowed to leave your home for a lateral flow test, even if you do not currently have symptoms. Find out more about self-isolation.
No, if you have symptoms you must cancel your lateral flow test and book a PCR test. You can call 119 to book if you do not have internet access.
An appointment can be cancelled online up to the day before the appointment.
Twice weekly testing is recommended to all those who are accessing lateral flow tests. Ideally you should take your tests three to four days apart.
Lateral flow tests are designed to detect the presence or absence of coronavirus amongst people who are not experiencing symptoms (asymptomatic). The test cannot tell whether you have had the virus in the past, or if you have recently been exposed to the virus but are not yet infectious.
NHS advice currently states that you should continue to behave in exactly the same way once you have had your vaccine as you did before you had it. This is because there is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine. You should continue to access testing in the same way you did previously. Find out more about the vaccine.
I am having some flu-like symptoms following my COVID-19 vaccination, can I still have my lateral flow test?
Although a mild fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms, or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and book a PCR test. If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms you should not attend a lateral flow test, even if the likely cause is your COVID-19 vaccination.