Please note, this information relates only to antibody testing. Antibody testing is separate from weekly swab retesting and outbreak testing by PHE. It is vital we continue swab retesting of all staff and residents in care homes.
What is an antibody test?
Antibody tests help detect antibodies for the COVID-19 virus to determine if you have previously had the virus. We still have a limited understanding of the body’s immune response to the virus. We do not currently know how long an antibody response lasts, whether you can be re-infected, or whether having antibodies means you cannot transmit the virus. The test does not tell you if you currently have the virus.
What are antibody tests used for?
At-home antibody testing service supports surveillance studies that help us understand COVID-19 and how it has spread in the adult social care sector. By participating and taking a test, you contribute to this effort.
An antibody test result can only tell you whether or not you had the virus in the past and developed antibodies. It does not tell you if you currently have the virus.
Therefore, regardless of the result of an antibody test, you must continue to comply with government guidelines, including wearing PPE and social distancing.
You can find guidance on PPE and information about working safely in care homes here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-how-to-work-safely-in-care-homes
Who can register for an antibody test?
At-home antibody testing is now available across England to anyone employed in adult social care. Personal assistants who provide care and support for adults are eligible, as are staff working in residential care, domiciliary care, extra care, supported living, and local authority adult social care departments.
The NHS avails antibody testing to social care staff in some areas in England. This at-home antibody test provides a new route to access an antibody test, giving greater flexibility and choice than before. You should only take one version of the test.
If your care home currently faces a local outbreak or suspected local outbreak in your care home, please wait 3 weeks after the outbreak before taking an antibody test.
How do these tests differ from regular COVID-19 swab tests?
Antibody tests are different from COVID-19 swab tests. Swab tests show if someone currently has COVID-19, whereas antibody tests show if they have previously had COVID-19 and have developed antibodies. They do not show if you currently have the virus.
Weekly swab retesting for all staff and monthly retesting for residents should remain a priority, even if individuals receive a positive antibody test result.
If you currently experience COVID-19 symptoms, you should follow government guidelines and order a free COVID-19 swab test here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/get-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/
Will my antibody test results affect whether I need a flu jab?
COVID-19 and flu infections are different. The flu jab is a safe vaccination offered every year by the NHS free of charge to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
It is important to have a flu jab because it helps to protect the vulnerable people you work with. Also, research shows that if you catch COVID-19 and flu at the same time, you’re more likely to be seriously ill.
If your antibody test shows that you had COVID-19 in the past, you still need a flu jab. Whether you had COVID-19 or not, the flu jab is still safe.
Information about the flu jab and how to get it can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/
Taking the test
To sign up for an at-home antibody test, register online here: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-antibody-test
After registering, you will receive a text message containing a code that will allow you to sign up for a test. You will find all the necessary test equipment and instructions in the kit delivered to your home along with a link to a video guide.
You will receive your test results via text message.
Please find guidance and a video explaining how to take the antibody finger-prick test here: www.gov.uk/taking-antibody-blood-sample.
As frontline care workers, we recognise the mental and physical challenges that COVID-19 may have placed on you. It is important that you access the necessary support. A service called Our Frontline offers support from trained volunteers plus resources to help look after your mental health. You can access this service here: https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/ourfrontline/
If you have further questions about the service, please call 119.
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