Health and social care staff in England will be offered antibody tests from next week onwards.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the tests will be available to NHS and care staff, eligible patients and care residents in England to see if they have had coronavirus as part of a new programme.
Tests will be prioritised for NHS and care staff, and clinicians will be able to request them for patients in both hospital and social care settings if they deem it appropriate.
Under the new programme announced today, laboratory-based antibody tests will be used to tell whether someone has already had the virus, to provide accurate data about the antibodies they have developed in response.
The information will help clinicians and scientists to better understand the prevalence of the virus in different regions across the country.
For care staff, the testing programme will be rolled out in a phased way across regions in England.
Social care staff will be tested using a separate phlebotomy service, which will be able to take blood at their place of work.
‘Today we have signed contracts to supply over 10 million tests from Roche and Abbott supply in the coming months,’ said Mr Hancock.
‘From next week, we will begin rolling these out in a phased way. At first, to health and care staff, patients and residents.
‘This is an important milestone and it represents further progress in our national testing programme. Knowing you have these antibodies will help us to understand in the future if you are at lower risk of catching coronavirus, dying from coronavirus and of transmitting coronavirus.’
Responding to the announcement, Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘This could be a game changer – and it is great that we now have a reliable antibody test.
‘We very much welcome the decision to give health and care staff priority and to work with local leaders on how this is done, As with antigen testing, we need a clear plan for how these tests will be distributed and assurance that there will be no obstacles to staff accessing them.’
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