Antibody tests for health and social care staff

The government will offer coronavirus antibody tests to health and social care staff in England, with patients and care residents also eligible at their clinician’s request.

As part of a new national antibody testing programme announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, the 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.

It follows the substantial expansion of the UK’s swab testing capacity, which saw the creation of the country’s biggest network of diagnostic labs. Under the new programme, highly accurate 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.

Antibody tests require blood samples, which will be collected by trained staff and analysed by existing pathology labs across England. Data on the number of positive and negative cases will be reported to Public Health England.

Hancock said: “Today we have signed contracts to supply over 10 million tests from Roche and Abbott supply in the coming months. 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.

“History has shown that understanding an enemy is fundamental to defeating it. In this latest fight, our ingenuity and our brilliant scientists and our scientific curiosity is what will keep us one step ahead of this virus. We all have something to bring though in this fight - one action every one of us can take is to follow the rules on hygiene and social distancing. Not just for you, but for your loved ones and for your community. So please, stay alert, control the virus and save lives.”

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