FILE PHOTO: A student of Newcastle Sixth Form College performs a lateral flow antigen test, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain, November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith/File Photo

Community pharmacies in several parts of England are now providing lateral flow testing (LFT) as part of a local authority organised service.

This includes pharmacies in parts of London, including Kingston and Merton, where they are providing testing programmes for asymptomatic residents.

Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19, but who may still be spreading the virus.

The tests are easy to use and give results in 30 minutes.

Around one in three people with Covid-19 do not have symptoms, so a test that rapidly detects these otherwise hidden cases is a very useful additional tool for tackling the virus.

Commenting on the services they have helped implement, Amit Patel, chief officer, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth LPC, said: “The LFT service has been a huge support to keyworkers across Merton, where we have a number of pharmacies delivering up to 150 tests each per week, enabling them to go to work and support the community.

“Our public health team have been hugely supportive and have worked hard with the LPC to ensure that we maximise on this opportunity. We have been told by them on numerous occasions that the role pharmacy has played through the pandemic has really helped them as commissioners see us as a real and viable solution to local issues.

“The service was up and running within a week and includes an enhanced service where the pharmacy team can take the opportunity to give additional advice on issues such as hands, face space, smoking and obesity which are proven to exacerbate Covid-19 symptoms. It is a great service to show how our healthy living pharmacies can work as a team with the oversight of the pharmacist.“

Lateral flow is an established technology, adapted to detect proteins (antigens) that are present when a person has Covid-19.

Lateral flow antigen testing involves processing a throat and nasal swab sample with an extraction fluid and a lateral flow device. Most of the lateral flow testing in England is currently conducted at asymptomatic test sites, which are implemented in a range of community settings such as pharmacies, universities, schools, care homes and workplaces.

Michael Keen, chief officer of Kingston, Richmond and Twickenham LPC, added: “In Kingston, Richmond and South West London, our LPCs work closely with the Boroughs and have good working relationships with the Directors of Public Health.

“This service is a result of those relationships. It is important to community pharmacy because it addresses a public need, helps to build on the trust members of the public have in us to tackle Covid-19 related health matters, and helps people manage a pandemic that has them very worried.”

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