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Free COVID-19 tests for nurses to end in England next week

Nurses in England will cease to have free tests unless they have symptoms, while other UK countries are reviewing the policy
Picture of someone using a COVID-19 testing kit

Nurses in England will cease to have free tests unless they have covid symptoms, while other UK countries are reviewing the policy

Free COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic nurses and other NHS staff in England is set to end next week.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that routine asymptomatic testing will be paused in the most high-risk settings from 31 August as cases of COVID-19 continue to fall.

Free testing for staff with symptoms – along with immunocompromised patients in hospital, and people being admitted into care homes and hospices from hospitals and the community – will remain in place.

Access to free testing vital so nurses are not put at risk, RCN insists

Nurses in England will cease to have free tests unless they have covid symptoms, while other UK countries are reviewing the policy

Picture of someone using a COVID-19 testing kit
Picture: iStock

Free COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic nurses and other NHS staff in England is set to end next week.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that routine asymptomatic testing will be paused in the most high-risk settings from 31 August as cases of COVID-19 continue to fall.

Free testing for staff with symptoms – along with immunocompromised patients in hospital, and people being admitted into care homes and hospices from hospitals and the community – will remain in place.

Access to free testing vital so nurses are not put at risk, RCN insists

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘This reflects the fact that case rates have fallen and the risk of transmission has reduced, though we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with sectors to resume testing should it be needed. Those being admitted into care homes will continue to be tested.’

RCN director Patricia Marquis said it is vital there is continued vigilance against COVID-19 to ensure nurses are not put at risk. ‘Nursing staff must continue to have access to free testing and high-quality personal protective equipment. Risk assessments, in line with health and safety legislation, should be undertaken by all healthcare staff,’ she said.

‘We have all come a long way and must not risk any backwards step when health services are already under enormous pressure.’

Settings where asymptomatic testing of staff and patients will end

  • The entirety of the NHS (including independent healthcare providers treating NHS patients)
  • Adult social care and hospice services (apart from new admissions)
  • Parts of the prison service and some places of detention
  • Certain domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings


Free testing for the public in England and Scotland ended on 1 April, while Wales stopped its free testing programme last month and Northern Ireland scrapped it this week.

Nurses had widely criticised the potential end to free testing for NHS staff, which could have left them paying £50 a month for tests.

England is so far the only UK country to pause free testing for asymptomatic NHS staff

England is so far the only country in the UK to pause free testing for asymptomatic NHS staff, but other UK governments have said they will keep their policies under review.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health this week confirmed that nurses will continue have access to free COVID-19 tests as testing for the wider public was scaled back, but stressed it will be kept under review.

Most people in Northern Ireland will no longer be able to obtain free lateral flow tests as COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions continue to fall. In a written statement, health minister Robin Swann said: ‘People who work in health and social care settings will also continue to be advised to test if they develop symptoms. Free tests will remain available for these purposes.’

In Scotland all NHS staff, including nurses, can still access free testing, while in Wales patient-facing nurses and NHS staff are advised to do a lateral flow test twice a week.


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