Antibody tests will be available to all NHS health and care staff, eligible patients and care residents in England to see if they have had coronavirus as part of a new national antibody testing programme.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the new antibody testing programme will prioritise NHS and care staff. Clinicians will also be able to request the tests for patients in both hospital and social care settings if they deem it appropriate.

The programme, commencing from 26 May, will provide highly accurate laboratory-based antibody tests to ascertain whether a person has already had the virus and the data will help clinicians and scientists to better understand the prevalence of the virus in different regions across the country.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced that all NHS and care staff in England will be offered the test, with patients and care residents eligible at their clinician’s request, and devolved administrations deciding who is eligible for tests in their jurisdictions.

The DHSE confirmed that a positive test result for antibodies does not currently mean that the person being tested is immune to COVID-19, and there is no firm evidence that the presence of antibodies means someone cannot be re-infected with the virus or will not pass it on to someone else.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the programme would mean being able to develop the systems of certification so that people who have positive antibodies can be given assurance about what they can safely do.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has urged Matt Hancock to set out a joined up strategy for the national testing programme, where the right people are tested at the right time and warned that GPs' confidence in COVID-19 testing was being "undermined" by long waiting times for results and questions around accuracy of results.

Last reviewed 26 May 2020