Questions around the Sussex symptom-free Community Testing Programme

Testing available for people who are not showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Anyone aged 18 or over who lives or works in Sussex can book a symptom-free test at a participating community pharmacy across Sussex or at a dedicated testing centre at Hove Town Hall.

Appointments must be booked in advance. We recommend you book a test twice a week with three days between tests.

These tests are taken under supervision of a member of staff who will then process your result on site.

For more information, see Asymptomatic testing.

What is symptom-free community testing?

The Community Testing Programme provides testing to people aged 18 or over who have no symptoms of COVID-19 and would prefer to receive a supervised test.

Community testing is one of a number of ways in which people without symptoms can access Asymptomatic testing.

It aims to identify people who may have the virus and could be spreading it without knowing it. That way, they can isolate and help reduce further transmission, protect our communities and return to a life as normal as possible, as quickly as possible.

Who runs the programme?

The Community Testing Programme in Sussex is run by West Sussex County Council, East Sussex County Council and Brighton & Hove City Council in partnership with the Sussex Resilience Forum and the Department for Health and Social Care.

How long will symptom-free tests be available for?

The Community Testing Programme will be provided until at least 30 June 2021 and may be extended beyond this date.

Who is eligible for this test?

To book an assisted symptom-free test you must:

  • be aged 18 or older
  • live or work in West Sussex, East Sussex or Brighton & Hove
  • not have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, new persistent cough, or loss of taste or smell). If you have any of these symptoms you must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test or call 119.

If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19 you are not eligible for community testing for 90 days. If you develop symptoms you should instead book a PCR test.

What does the test involve?

The assisted testing process takes around 10 minutes and you should get results within 30 minutes to two hours of leaving the site in most cases.

The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which will be done by the person themselves. The test will then be analysed by a member of staff on-site.

If you don’t feel confident taking the test by yourself at home, or you are taking one for the first time, we would recommend booking an assisted test where staff can answer any questions you may have.

You will not need to isolate while waiting for the results of the symptom-free test. You will only need to isolate if you are notified you have tested positive or if you develop any symptoms.

Before you take your first test you will need to register your personal details so that results can be shared with you. To save time, you can register online to create an account in advance.

Where can I get tested?

Test sites are available at participating community pharmacies across West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove, and a dedicated testing site at Hove Town Hall.

You can use the site finder to locate a testing site or participating pharmacy close to you.

When you book your appointment to have your test, you will have the option to choose which testing site or pharmacy to visit and given further information, including directions.

When can I get tested?

Pharmacy opening times and testing appointment availability will vary, although most are providing slots Monday to Friday.

There may be some availability at community pharmacies at weekends, depending on the individual opening hours of pharmacies offering testing.

Please refer to the booking system to see available slots on offer at individual sites.

Hove Town Hall

The Community testing site at Hove Town Hall, Norton Road, Hove, BN3 3BQ is open:

  • Monday: 8.00am-5.00pm
  • Tuesday: 8.00am-5.00pm
  • Wednesday: 8.00-8.00pm
  • Thursday: 8.00am-5.00pm
  • Friday: 8.00am-5.00pm
  • Saturday: 8.00am-5.00pm.

If I am regularly tested through an existing programme, such as through my workplace, should I start using the Community Testing Programme instead?

No, not unless you would rather take a supervised test. If you don’t feel confident carrying out the test by yourself at home, especially if it is your first time, you can book an assisted test at a pharmacy or test site.

If you can access symptom-free testing through an existing programme at your workplace, you should continue to use that instead.

How can I book a test?

You can book a test using the online booking system.

What if I need to change or cancel my booking?

If you can’t attend your appointment, please cancel it as soon as possible using the link that you receive in your confirmation email. You will only be able to do this up to the end of the day before you appointment.

What happens if I can't make my appointment?

If you find you can’t attend on the day of your test you will be recorded as ‘did not attend’.

However, you will be able to book another slot.

Do I have to pay if I can’t make my appointment?

There is currently no charge for people who are recorded as ‘did not attend’. This may be reviewed in the future and the website will be updated with all information as and when this becomes available.

What if I am eligible for testing, but there are no slots available for me to book a test?

Only days with available booking slots are shown on the booking system.

If there are no booking slots available, please try again the following day.

How far in advance can I book tests?

You can book tests from one day to one week in advance. You cannot book tests for the same day.

What should I bring with me to the test site?

You will need your booking reference and ID.

Before you take your test you will need to register your personal details so that your results can be shared with you. This can only be done when you attend the site for your test as you will need to enter a test kit barcode to register. If you own a smartphone, you can download the smartphone app in advance. This will help to speed up the registration process.

If you do not have a device capable of registering yourself, a member of staff will be able to help you with this.

If you are visiting a pharmacy and need help to complete the swab test, please bring someone from your bubble to assist you. This is because we can’t guarantee that the pharmacy will be able to do this for you.

What happens during the testing process?

You need to book a test before arriving at the test site or pharmacy. You should avoid eating or drinking for at least 30 minutes before taking the test to reduce the risk of spoiling it.

  • You will be greeted by a member of staff upon arrival, who will check your eligibility, ID and booking information.
  • You'll then register for the test on your own smartphone or on a tablet provided in the registration area.
  • You will then be asked to take a swab kit. You will be given instructions on how to take the swab sample, which is a large cotton bud wiped at the back of your throat and up your nose.
  • You will hand the swab back to a member of staff to process the test on site.

Staff will be on hand to answer questions at any point during this process. You will then be asked to leave the test centre or pharmacy. You should continue with your day, following the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus. Remember to socially distance, wear a face mask when required and maintain hand hygiene as usual during this time.

What if I need support to take the test?

If you are visiting a pharmacy and you require assistance to do the swab test, please bring someone from your bubble to assist you. This is because we can’t guarantee that the pharmacy will be able to do this for you.

How will I receive my result?

You will receive your result from NHS Test and Trace through a smartphone app or email. You should get your result within 30 minutes in most cases.

Before you take your first test you will need to register your personal details so that your results can be shared with you. To register your personal details, you will need the barcode of your test kit, so if you are attending a test centre, you’ll need to register there.

If you own a smartphone, you can download the smartphone app in advance. This will help to speed up the registration process.

If you don’t have a smartphone, devices will be available on site for you to use. You can then choose to have the results sent to a trusted friend or family member if you need to.

What type of test is being used?

Community testing uses lateral flow devices (LFDs).

An LFD detects the presence or absence of coronavirus from a swab sample. The sample is mixed with a buffer solution, which releases and breaks up virus fragments. Some of the solution is then dropped onto the LFD. The sample runs along the surface of the device's absorbent strip, showing at the end either a visual positive or negative result.

How is this different from the test being used for those with symptoms taking a test?

The testing process is similar because for both tests you will need to take a swab from your throat and nose.

The main difference is that the test for those with symptoms uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This is more sensitive than the symptom-free lateral flow device (LFD) test, which is why it is used for people who have symptoms of the virus. However, the results from an LFD test are available much quicker, as it is processed on site instead of being taken to a laboratory to be processed.

Are the tests accurate?

When levels of virus are at their highest and people are most likely to pass on the disease, lateral flow tests can detect the vast majority of cases. Lateral flow is useful for finding out if a person is infectious now, and able to transmit the virus to others. The level of sensitivity is high enough to detect the vast majority of these cases. Lateral flow testing is less likely to return a positive result outside the infectious window.

A negative result means that active coronavirus infection was not detected at the time of the test. However, this does not guarantee that you do not have coronavirus. You should continue to follow coronavirus rules, including regular hand washing, social distancing and face coverings where required.

What happens if I test positive?

If you receive a positive lateral flow device (LFD) test result from an assisted test you will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace. You and your household must self-isolate immediately and any contacts will be advised to self-isolate too.

You must then take a follow-up polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within two days of getting your test. If your follow-up test is negative, you and your household can stop self-isolating.

The advice for travelling home if you receive a positive test is:

  • travel home immediately, wearing a face covering
  • travel in your own vehicle or walk or cycle wherever possible
  • arrange for a member of your household to pick you up if it is not possible to travel in your own vehicle or walk or cycle.

What support is available if I test positive?

If you need to self-isolate, support is available from West Sussex Community Hub.

You may also be eligible for support under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. See GOV.UK for full details of the scheme.

You can also get free delivery from your local pharmacy during your 10-day isolation period if you have no other way to get your medicines. You will need your NHS Test and Trace account ID when requesting the service.

Can I still get tested after I have tested positive and self-isolated?

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, whether via a lateral flow device (LFD) test or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, you will not be eligible for community testing for 90 days. If you develop symptoms, you should be directed to symptomatic testing sites.

Current advice is that, if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last within 90 days via a symptom-free or symptomatic test, you are likely to have developed some immunity. Therefore, a repeat LFD test is unlikely to be necessary within this period.

This is an evolving area, and we will update our guidance in line with the most up to date evidence as it becomes available.

What happens if I get an invalid result?

An invalid result is rare, but if it happens to you, you should retest with another symptom-free test.

If you have a second invalid result, you should get a COVID-19 test like you would if you had symptoms. You can tick the box saying that your local authority has directed you to get a COVID-19 test.

What happens if I test negative?

If you test negative, this does not completely rule out infection with COVID-19 as there can be false negative results.

To protect yourself and others, you must continue to follow the current restrictions in place.

Remember: hands, face, space, fresh air.

  • Hands - wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home. Use hand sanitiser or gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Face - wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will meet people you do not normally meet.
  • Space - stay at least two metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.
  • Fresh air - letting in air by opening a window can disperse COVID-19 particles, while fresh air outdoors dilutes the virus and you have more space to physically distance.

If I get a negative symptom-free test via this Community Testing programme, does that mean I do not need to self-isolate if I am identified as a contact of a COVID positive case?

If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should not book a symptom-free test.

You must stay at home and complete 10 days' self-isolation after the day of the test. Taking a symptom-free test will not allow you to end your isolation early. It's a legal requirement to self-isolate if you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate.

Should I still get tested if I have been vaccinated against COVID-19?

Testing is in addition to the vaccination programme, which is led by the NHS. When you are invited to do so, it is extremely important that you book to have your COVID-19 vaccination

You should still be tested if you are able to, even after you have been vaccinated.

After your vaccination, please also remember to stick to the hands, face, space, and fresh air guidance.

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on an LFD test?

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 will not cause you to test positive on a lateral flow device (LFD) test. The test detects current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 rather than the immune response caused by getting vaccinated.

Who can I contact if I have a question about the Community Testing (symptom-free) programme?

If you have any questions, please contact the West Sussex Community Hub on 01243 642130.

Last updated:
2 August 2021
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