About Our Testing


FAQ 1 - What is symptom-free testing?

Surrey County Council is offering on- site testing using lateral flow devices (LFD) at participating community pharmacies to anyone aged over 11 who lives, works or studies in Surrey. Anyone aged under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

FAQ 2 - Why is Surrey County Council offering symptom-free tests?

Up to one in three people with COVID-19 have no symptoms but may still be infectious and spread the infection to others unknowingly. Identifying and supporting these infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread and transmission of the virus. This will help protect our most vulnerable residents and help us get back to a more normal life.

FAQ 3 - How long will symptom-free testing be available for?

The Targeted Community Testing (symptom-free) programme will be provided at least until the end of March 2022.

FAQ 4 - Who is eligible to have a symptom-free test at community pharmacies offering on-site testing?

To have an on-site test at one of our community pharmacies, you must:

  • Be aged 11 or over. Anyone aged under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • Be a resident in Surrey, or work or study in Surrey
  • Not have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, new persistent cough, or loss of sense of taste or smell). If you have any of these symptoms, you should arrange a PCR coronavirus test
  • Not have been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test & Trace
  • Not have had a positive COVID-19 test (LFD or PCR) in the last 90 days
FAQ 5 - Can my children be tested at community pharmacies?

You must be aged 11 or over to have an on-site test at a community pharmacy. Symptom-free testing of secondary school children is being run via schools during term time, with pupils taking twice-weekly tests using home test kits provided by their school, but secondary school aged children can use this service. Anyone aged under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Primary school pupils are not being asked to have symptom-free tests.

FAQ 6 - Can I collect home LFD testing kits from community pharmacies offering on-site testing?

Home LFD testing kits can be collected from participating NHS Test & Trace sites in the afternoons and from participating pharmacies. Community pharmacies that are acting as testing sites may or may not be currently acting as collection points as well. It is recommended to visit the NHS COVID-19 Test  Site Finder to check which sites are acting as collection points for home testing kits. No booking is required for collection.

FAQ 7 - Is the test mandatory or voluntary?

Testing is voluntary, although we hope that many people recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing efforts, to reduce the spread of the virus in our communities.

FAQ 8 - If I am regularly tested through an existing programme such as via my workplace, should I start using this testing programme instead?

No. If you can access symptom-free testing via an existing programme such as at your workplace, you should continue to use that testing instead.

FAQ 9 - Can I walk in to have a test, or do I need to book?

If you wish to have an on-site test at a community pharmacy, you need to book beforehand via the online portal. If you are unable to book a test online, you can call the helpdesk number on 020 8865 1952 (Monday - Friday 9am to 5pm, local charges will apply). We would encourage you to book a test via our online system if you are able to.

FAQ 10 - What if I need to change or cancel my booking for an on-site test at a community pharmacy?

If you chose to create an account on the online portal when you booked your appointment at a community pharmacy, you can log into your account to change or cancel your appointment. If you did not create an account on the booking system, please ring the helpdesk number on 020 8865 1952 (Monday - Friday 9am to 5pm, local charges will apply), to change or cancel. If you can no longer attend your appointment, we recommend you change your appointment rather than cancel as it's important that you get tested.

FAQ 11 - What if I am eligible for testing, but there are no slots available for me to book an on-site test at a community pharmacy?

Only days with available booking slots are shown on the online portal. If there are no booking slots available, please try again the following day.

FAQ 12 - Where can I get an on-site test?

On-site testing is available at participating community pharmacies. Locations of sites can be found on the online portal.

FAQ 13 - When can I get an on-site test?

Pharmacy opening hours vary. Some have availability at weekends. Please refer to the online portal to see available slots on offer at individual community pharmacy sites. Available slots will be shown for the current week and the week ahead.

FAQ 14 - How frequently should I get tested?

We recommend getting tested two times a week where possible, in line with recommendations from nationally run symptom-free testing streams for other workforces that need to leave the home to work. We recommend you do this regularly while testing is available to help stop the spread of the virus.

FAQ 15 - What type of test is being used?

Targeted Community Testing uses Lateral Flow Devices (LFD). An LFD detects the presence or absence of coronavirus from a swab sample. The sample is mixed with a buffer solution, which releases and breaks up virus fragments. Some of the solution is then dropped on to the LFD. The sample runs along the surface of the device’s absorbent strip, showing at the end a visual positive or negative result dependent on the presence of the virus.

FAQ 16 - How is this different from the test being used for those with symptoms taking a test?

The testing process is similar because for both tests you will need to take a swab from your throat and nose. PCR and LFD testing have different roles to play in controlling the virus, so it isn’t helpful to directly compare them in terms of how sensitive they are. Sensitivity refers to the proportion of people with COVID-19 that have a positive test. LFD testing is useful for finding out if a person is infectious now, and able to transmit the virus to others. The level of sensitivity is high enough to detect the vast majority of these cases. LFD testing is less likely to return a positive result outside the infectious window. PCR testing is useful for confirming a suspected case of coronavirus, where the person is already self-isolating and is showing symptoms. Higher sensitivity of PCR means it can identify genetic material from COVID-19 even after the active infection has passed. The different levels of sensitivity are therefore appropriate for the ways they are used. An additional benefit of LFD tests is that results are available much quicker, as the test is processed on site as opposed to being taken to a laboratory to be processed.

FAQ 17 - Are the tests accurate?

Extensive clinical evaluation has been carried out on LFD tests. Evaluations from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show these tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community for screening and surveillance purposes. When levels of virus are at their highest and people are most likely to pass on COVID-19, LFDs can detect the vast majority of cases. Recent analysis by NHS Test and Trace also showed that LFDs have a specificity of at least 99.9%. This means that for every 1,000 LFD tests carried out, there is fewer than one false positive result.

To reduce the risk of false negatives, individuals who test negative are advised to continue with other vital infection prevention control measures such as wearing a mask, washing hands regularly and social distancing, To reduce the risk of false positives, individuals who test positive are advised to get a confirmatory PCR test.

FAQ 18 - What should I bring with me to the testing site?

You must bring a valid form of ID, proof of your appointment confirmation and a face covering. You can register on your own mobile device, so this may speed up your registration. Tablets will be provided for registration if you do not have your own mobile device.

FAQ 19 - What happens during the testing process?

You will be greeted by a member of staff upon arrival, who will check your eligibility, ID and booking information. You'll then register for the test on your own smartphone. You will then be asked to take a swab kit. You will be given instructions on how to do the sample and take the swab sample, which is a large cotton bud wiped at the back of your throat and up your nose. You will hand the swab back to a member of staff who processes the test on site.

Staff will be on hand to answer questions at any point during this process. You will then be asked to leave the pharmacy. You should continue with your day, following the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus. Remember to socially distance, wear a face mask when required and maintain hand hygiene as usual during this time.

FAQ 20 - How will I receive my on-site test result?

You will receive your result from NHS Test and Trace, via text message and email. This is generally within 30 minutes of the test, but it can sometimes take longer.

If you have not received your result within 24 hours, you can get your result by calling NHS 119.

FAQ 21 - What happens if I get a positive result?

If you get a positive lateral flow test result, you do not need to confirm the result with a PCR test. You only need to confirm a positive lateral flow test if:

  • you're applying for a Test and Trace Support Payment
  • you're eligible for new COVID-19 treatments
  • you're asked to do so as part of research
  • you have a positive lateral flow test on or before day 2 of arriving in England from outside the UK
FAQ 22 - What support is available to individuals that test positive?

If you're asked to self-isolate after a positive symptom-free test andyou’re employed or self-employed, , you may be entitled to a payment of £500 from your local district or borough council if you meet certain eligibility criteria. More information about the scheme can be found on the Surrey County Council website.

FAQ 23 - What happens if I get a negative result?

You should continue to follow the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus, as well as measures implemented as part of the national lockdown. To protect yourself and others, you must remember: Hands,Face,Space, Fresh Air

Hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home - use hand sanitiser or gel if soap and water are not available.

Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will meet people you do not normally meet.

Space – stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.

Fresh air – let in fresh air when indoors by opening windows, and only meet people outside your household or bubbles outdoors in line with the national roadmap out of lockdown.

FAQ 24 - What happens if I get a void result?

A void result is rare, but if it happens to you, you should retest with another symptom-free test. If you get a second void result, you should get a PCR test like you would if you had symptoms. You can tick the box saying that your local authority has directed you to get a PCR test.

FAQ 25 - If I get a negative symptom-free test via this Targeted Community Testing programme, does that mean I do not need to self-isolate if I am identified as a contact of a COVID positive case?

If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should not book a symptom-free test. You must stay at home and complete 10 days self-isolation after the day of the test. Taking a symptom-free test will not allow you to end your isolation early. It's a legal requirement to self-isolate if you are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate.

FAQ 26 - Can I still get tested after I have tested positive and self-isolated?

You do not need a negative test to end your self-isolation period. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 by an LFD test or a PCR test within the last 90 days, you should not participate in this testing. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during this 90-day period, you should get a PCR test. You can restart routine testing again using LFD tests at our sites once 90 days have passed since your positive test (if you were symptom free) or the onset of your illness (if you were symptomatic).

FAQ 27 - Should I still get tested if I have been vaccinated against COVID-19?

You should still get tested if you're eligible even if you have been vaccinated as there is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.

FAQ 28 - After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a LFD test?

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 will not cause you to test positive on a LFD test. The test detects current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 rather than the immune response caused by getting vaccinated.

FAQ 29 - Who can I contact if I have a question about the Targeted Community Testing (symptom-free) programme?

You can email [email protected] with any questions and one of the team will come back to you.