COVID-19 home testing kits now easier to order

The government has introduced a number of new improvements to the home testing programme to make it even easier to get tested.

People who do not have access to the internet can now order PCR home testing kits over the phone by calling 119, without needing an email address or any other digital requirement.

This means that people without access to the internet or digital services can order PCR tests to use in their homes, if they have symptoms. The home testing service is available to everyone in the United Kingdom with COVID-19 symptoms, and can still be accessed through the home testing online portal.

In order to improve accessibility of testing services, NHS Test and Trace has worked with and sought feedback from a number of charities, including the RNIB, Macular Society, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary.

NHS Test and Trace has worked particularly closely with the RNIB, undertaking trials with volunteers with differing levels of vision quality to understand the changes that would have the most impact. Following recommendations, new tools are being introduced for those ordering home test kits who are vision impaired, including:

  • improved boxes that are easier to assemble for the returning of tests
  • instructions in braille, audio (CD) and large print
  • an RNIB information line you can call to hear a recorded version of the instructions

Additionally, the government is planning the spring launch of ‘Be My Eyes’ specialist video support, an app that customers can download that will offer customers with vision impairments live video assistance where an assistant will ‘act as their eyes’. The assistants are specially trained NHS Test and Trace staff.

Hundreds of thousands of tests are processed every day, and more than 8.6 million people, including those testing positive and their close contacts, have been asked to self-isolate thanks to the work of NHS Test and Trace. Nearly everyone can access a test locally, as more than 850 test sites are in operation and the median distance travelled for a test is just 1.9 miles.

NHS Test and Trace has also continued to deliver some of its best turnaround times for home test kit results since the service launched last May, with a median turnaround time of 35 hours. We received more than 260,000 home test kits during this reporting week, with the service ensuring that those who are required to take a COVID-19 test are able to access one without visiting a test centre and meeting demand despite the current weather conditions.


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