Lateral flow home testing

The University is trialling the provision of Lateral Flow home-testing devices (LFT) to some colleagues who absolutely have to work on site, so that they can perform their own tests at home. The aim of the scheme is to provide an extra level of protection against the spread of COVID-19 by screening for asymptomatic infections in those staff who present the greatest risk of onward transmission, i.e. those working frequently onsite, using public transport and/or working in the most people-facing roles. 

How can I take part in the trial?

Colleges and departments will decide whether to take part in this pilot scheme according to their own risk assessments. Some colleges and departments may decide they do not wish to participate in the pilot.

At the moment, eligibility for the pilot scheme is limited to colleagues who: 

  • Work five days a week onsite AND EITHER 
  • have to use public transport to travel to work 
  • work in settings involving close face-to-face contact with students, other colleagues, visitors, contractors or the wider public, and in which social distancing measures are hard to enforce. 

Use of the LFT kits is voluntary. Departments and Colleges that are participating in the trial will contact staff who fit the eligibility criteria above to let them know how to register their interest. College staff will hear directly from their College about testing arrangements.

Participating departments and Colleges are likely to begin issuing the kits to eligible staff in early February. Initial stock of the kits is limited due to supply issues, so we cannot guarantee a kit to all staff who request to participate. Participating institutions will determine the priority order for receiving kits based their specific circumstances.

If you work on site but are not eligible to receive a LFT kit under the University criteria, or your department/College is not participating in the trial, you may still be able to access the rapid testing service being offered by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough councils. Please note that these tests must be booked in advance and taken regularly. If you get a positive result from a LFT taken through the council screening programme, you should notify the University by completing the COVID monitoring form.

How does lateral flow testing work?

The tests involve a self-administered nose and mouth swab, and deliver results in approximately 30 minutes. See detailed instructions on how and when to use the tests.

Anyone who tests positive with an LFT should self-isolate and seek a more clinically precise PCR test (i.e. a regular COVID test) through the University’s testing sites to confirm the result. You should also report to the COVID Helpdesk via the COVID monitoring form.

If you test negative with an LFT, but have any symptoms of coronavirus, you must still self-isolate immediately, and book a PCR test as soon as possible either via University testing or the NHS.

LFT kits do not always detect positive cases, so it is still important to be extremely vigilant about symptoms. A negative LFT result is never a reason to relax. Home testing can help to prevent the spread of infection by revealing asymptomatic infections. It does not, in itself, reduce the likelihood of infection, nor is it a replacement for other preventative measures.

It is vitally important that any staff using these tests continue to follow public health guidance rigorously. Crucially, the most important thing we can all do is minimise physical interactions while levels of the virus remain high. “Hands, Face, Space” and appropriate ventilation indoors remain far more important than individual testing.

Can I get lateral flow tests through the NHS?

Free rapid lateral flow testing is now available in the community through local authorities for key workers and those unable to work from home. There are test centres across all the local counties. Staff wishing to use these services should note that tests have to be booked in advance, and some local authorities ask you to commit to taking them twice a week. See links below for details of community lateral flow testing in your local area.

You should only take these tests if you do not currently have symptoms. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 you should book a PCR test via the University or NHS symptomatic screening service.

If you get a positive result from a LFT taken through a local authority screening programme, you should notify the University by completing the COVID monitoring form. You (and any household members) should self-isolate in line with government guidance.

For more information about lateral flow testing at Cambridge, see our frequently asked questions page.