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COVID-19 testing for personal care assistants

If you are a personal care assistant for someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, has a defined underlying health condition or is of advanced age (85+) you should access weekly, self-use COVID-19 home testing kits. This care could include support in the home or care provided in community settings.

Regular testing of people without symptoms is a useful way to identify positive COVID-19 cases early and reduce the risk of onward transmission but it does not replace the need to use personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow COVID safe working practices.

NHS Test and Trace graphic. Summary: testing for personal assistants. 1. Personal assistant or employer orders four PCR test kits every 28 days. 2. Personal assistant or employer takes delivery of test kits. 3. personal assistant undertakes their own swabs using test kit on same day each week.4. Personal assistant registers test kit online.5. Personal assistant returns the kit on the same day of testing via their nearest priority postbox one hour before collection time. 6. Personal assistant received results via email and text message (SMS). If you have any queries with any of the steps please call the national coronavirus contact centre on 119.

The weekly symptom-free testing service is for personal care assistants (the employee) only and not for the people receiving care. A useful at-a-glance guide to the testing process for personal assistants has been produced to support employees and employers. 

 

Further information

Ordering testing kits

Personal care assistants will be responsible for ordering tests themselves, or an individual employer can order test kits on their behalf through the government portal.

Test kits can be ordered every 28 days and you should order four tests each time (you will not be able to order more tests for 14 days after placing an order).

Personal assistants or the individual employer must decide the address their test kits will be delivered to. You may want to use a different address if you’re unlikely to be home when the delivery arrives (within 48 hours).

Once you have placed an order, you will receive four confirmation emails from the following address: organisation.coronavirus.testing@notifications.service.gov.uk

If you have any questions about any of the above, please call the national COVID-19 contact centre on 119

Prepare for testing by looking at guidance

Before testing be sure to:

You can find out more on the government website:

  • How to register your test kit – If there are any problems with registering a test kit, please call 119. Correct registration of test kits is essential; if you do not register your test kit correctly you may not receive your result.

  • How to return your test kits – The test kit should be returned via a Royal Mail priority postbox on the same day you do your test and no later than one hour before the last collection time. Do not complete your test on a bank holiday. You will find priority post box locations and collection times on the Royal Mail website.

COVID-19 testing if you have symptoms

Personal assistants who have symptoms are now prioritised for COVID-19 testing under the government’s national testing programme as they meet the criteria of ‘essential workers’.

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms you must book a test through the national portal, the NHS COVID-19 app or by calling 119. Under national restrictions you are able to leave your home for testing if you have COVID-19 symptoms, however you must remain in isolation until you receive your test result.

COVID-19 symptoms can include one or all of the following: 

  • a high temperature 
  • a new, continuous cough 
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 do not go to work or public areas and do not use public transport or taxis. Only leave your home to get to your test if you need to (home-testing kits are available), observe strict social distancing advice and return immediately afterwards.

When booking a test on the national portal as a personal assistant, please tick that you are an essential worker for priority testing.

What happens if you test positive?

  • A positive result means you had coronavirus when the test was done. If your test is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days and follow the national guidance.

  • If you test positive but did not have symptoms at the time of the test, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the date of the test. If you do not develop symptoms during self-isolation, you can return to work on day 11 if you are well enough to do so. If you develop symptoms during this isolation period, you must re-start your 10-day isolation from the day you develop symptoms. 
  • Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, must self-isolate for 10 days from when you start self-isolating.
  • If you receive a positive test result while at work, you must put on a face mask immediately, inform your employer and return home (Avoiding public transport where possible). You will need to adhere to the self-isolation guidance.
  • Your employer will not automatically be informed of your positive test result. You should inform your employer of a positive result immediately so that they can protect anyone you are working with or have come into contact with at work. You should also take part in contact tracing as part of the national test and trace programme. You should always be wearing appropriate PPE at work and where this is the case, the person you care for will not be counted as a ‘contact’ and will not need to self-isolate. This only applies when at work.

This NHS webpage provides further information on what your test results mean and what you need to do next.

What happens if you get a negative result?

  • A negative result means the test did not find COVID-19. You can remain at work as long as you do not develop symptoms and as long as you have not been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case and no one in your household/bubble has symptoms and is awaiting a test result.
  • A negative result cannot guarantee that you do not have COVID-19. It could be that the level of infection in your body at the time of the test was not yet enough to be detected by the test or that you may have become infected since the swab was taken. Proper infection prevention and control measures, such as handwashing and correct use of PPE, are still vital for stopping the spread of COVID-19.
  • If you develop symptoms after testing negative, you should self-isolate and take another test.

This NHS webpage provides further information on what your test results mean and what you need to do next.

Operational support available for personal assistants

If a personal assistant tests positive or is instructed to isolate, their individual employer or somebody on their behalf should try to organise alternative arrangements. This is why contingency plans for the individual employers are so important, view the developing a contingency plan guidance on the GOV.UK website for further details. For example, it may be that another personal assistant is willing and able to take on further work to provide the individual with the care and support they need.

In cases where arrangements cannot be put in place to provide the individual employers with the care and support they need, the personal assistant or somebody on their behalf should contact the local authority or CCG immediately. They will support the individual employer in developing a temporary plan to ensure individuals’ care needs are met while you are self-isolating.

Personal assistants are entitled to claim free PPE from their local authority or local resilience forum. Guidance is available on the GOV.UK website.

Financial support for personal assistants

If a personal assistant needs to self-isolate, they may be entitled to a £500 payment via their local authority under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme whether they are employed or self-employed. Eligibility criteria and guidance is available on the GOV.UK website.

Directly employed personal assistants may also be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if they are self-isolating or are unwell. SSP is paid from the date they self-isolate. Please read the government guidance.

The Infection Control Fund (ICF) is also available to meet the costs of self-isolation. The ICF is not systematically paid to personal assistants and funding provided to personal assistants by local authorities from the ICF is at local authority discretion and must be used according to the terms under which local authorities provide it to personal assistants. It should be noted that if an individual is receiving their full wage from their employer through the ICF, they will not be eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme.

Supporting personal assistants to take up vaccination

A Q&A document has been produced by the Local Government Association’s Care and Health Improvement Programme and is available on their website: Supporting personal assistants to take up vaccination as part of priority group two, frontline care workers

Other FAQs

I am not working this week, do I still have to take a test?

Yes. Continue to complete a test every week even if you will not visit the person you care for or your individual employer on a particular week. If you think you no longer qualify as personal assistant, discuss this with your employer.

 

Should I continue providing care if I have symptoms?

No. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and are advised to self-isolate at home, you should not visit or care for individuals until it is safe to do so.

You should follow the Stay at home guidance as you could already be infectious with COVID-19 and you will not be able to have a lateral flow test. You must get an NHS test instead.  

COVID-19 symptoms can include one or all of the following: 

  • a high temperature 
  • a new, continuous cough 
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 do not go to work, school, or public areas and do not use public transport or taxis. Only leave your home to get to your test if you need to (home-testing kits are available), observe strict social distancing advice and return immediately afterwards.

 

Can I continue providing care if the person I care for has symptoms?

Yes but you should minimise the risk through safe working practices by using appropriate personal protective equipment and disposing of it safely.

 

I have tested negative do I still need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow infection control procedures?

Yes. If you are providing care which brings you into direct contact with someone, such as through washing and bathing, personal hygiene and contact with bodily fluids then you should always use PPE, even if you have tested negative. Plastic aprons, fluid-repellent surgical masks, gloves and eye protection (if there’s a risk of droplets or secretions) are recommended.

 

I and/or people I care for have had a COVID-19 vaccination, should I still test?

Yes. Testing is a crucial part of the government’s strategy against COVID-19 and should continue as per current guidance until further notice, even if personal assistants and/or their individual employers have received the vaccine.

Proper infection prevention and control measures ― such as handwashing and correct use of PPE ― are still vital for stopping the spread of COVID-19.