Last reviewed 22 April 2021

Nine in 10 pharmacies across England are now distributing free, rapid, lateral flow device (LFD) tests for people to collect and use at home, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed.

The new “Pharmacy Collect” service provides an additional route to regular testing, making it as easy as possible for people without Covid-19 symptoms to access testing twice a week.

It is available to people aged over 18 without symptoms, who are able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of seven rapid tests to use twice a week at home.

An online checker allows people to find their nearest pharmacy offering the free test kits. It can be accessed at https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said that he had been delighted at the level of interest shown by pharmacies and at how quicky they had offered to take part.

“They will play a key role in our rapid testing programme,” he went on, “which is a vital tool in reopening society in the months ahead.”

New analysis by NHS Test and Trace shows LFD tests have a specificity of at least 99.9%.

This means that for every 1000 tests carried out, there is fewer than one false positive result. All positive results from LFD tests must be followed up with a confirmatory PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test within 72 hours.

Confirmatory PCR testing will also mean variants of concern are detected more quickly, the DHSC explained.

If testing at home, individuals will need to register their results online or by calling 119, even if they get a negative result. They should self-isolate if they get a positive result and order a confirmatory PCR test online (https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test) or by calling 119.