COVID-19: Access to tests for community pharmacy staff (UK)

18 Apr 2020

The UK Government is testing people who have coronavirus-like symptoms to see if they currently have the virus. While the UK is building up testing capacity, the Government is offering testing to different groups in a phased approach and has issued guidance on coronavirus testing for frontline workers (including community pharmacy staff) who are self-isolating. Testing will allow those currently unable to return to work because they or a member of their family or household have symptoms of coronavirus to know whether they do have the virus.



Are community pharmacy staff currently eligible for testing as frontline workers?

Yes. Current eligibility criteria includes:

  • “All essential workers including NHS and social care workers with symptoms (see the full list of essential workers)
  • Anyone over 65 with symptoms
  • Anyone with symptoms whose work cannot be done from home (for example, construction workers, shop workers, emergency plumbers and delivery drivers)

 We will also test anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus that lives with those identified above”


Do they have to pay for the test?

No, the test is administered free of charge.


How will the test be administered?

  • The test is conducted at a test site or from home and involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat.
  • The test is most effective when conducted within 3 days of developing symptoms.
  • The swabs are sent to a testing lab.


Who will receive the test results and what are then next steps?

  • Results are usually available to the member of staff within 72 hours.
  • The pharmacy staff member informs the pharmacy owner/contractor of the outcome of their test.
  • Pharmacy owner/contractor to agree next steps with their staff member depending on the outcome of the test.


How can I refer myself or my employee for a test?

Self-referral can be made by a pharmacy staff member who is self isolating through the self referral portal, further information and a user guide for the portal can be found here.

Employers can refer staff who are self-isolating through the employer referral portal further information can be found here. Please see the below question on how employers can support staff for details about the Employers Information Pack.


What should pharmacy owners/contractors do to support pharmacy staff members?

To help employers communicate with staff about testing of essential workers, an Employers Information Pack has been published by Public Health England and is available to download from the Coronavirus Campaign Resource Centre. This pack includes useful information and resources for employers such as a user guide for the employer referral portal, posters, email banners and an infographic for staff which explains how to book a coronavirus test.



NHS Boards have been instructed to implement Covid-19 testing to enable key workers to return to work. Details of how each NHS Board should be contacted by pharmacy teams to access testing is available on the NHS Board section of the CPS Covid home page. All community pharmacy staff are classed as Priority Group  1a in the Scottish Government matrix for prioritising access to testing and should contact their Board using the correct local form to request testing..

Scotland is also participating in the UK wide Government programme to increase testing capacity and widen the key worker roles, e.g. to fire and prison service workers, to be able to access testing. This additional programme, using test centres across Scotland and some home test kits is accessed through a self-referral portal. Details are available here


Northern Ireland:

In Northern Ireland the Department of Health has approved COVID-19 testing for community pharmacy staff or their household contacts displaying symptoms and therefore requiring staff to self-isolate. Tests can be accessed by  contacting the GP practice of the person with symptoms or by booking an appointment for one of the dedicated test centres.  Details available on BSO COVID page



The process of COVID-19 testing in Wales varies by each Local Health Board (LHB). Please see LHB specific guidance or contact your LHB on how to proceed accordingly.


Further information


NPA guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19):