What is symptom-free (or asymptomatic) community testing?

The community testing programme provides supervised testing to people aged 18 or over who have no symptoms of COVID-19. Home test kit are also available.

Who is running the scheme?

The community testing programme in Sussex is run by Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and West Sussex County Council working in partnership with the Sussex Resilience Forum and the Department for Health and Social Care.

What is the aim of the programme?

Up to one in three people with COVID-19 have no symptoms but may still be infectious and spread the infection to others unknowingly.

Identifying and supporting any infectious people to isolate who may not have otherwise known they were spreading the virus will help reduce further transmission of COVID-19. This will help stop the spread of the virus and protect our most vulnerable residents.

How long will symptom-free tests be available for?

The programme will be provided until at least September 2021, but may be extended beyond this date.

Who is eligible for a symptom-free test?

To take a symptom-free test at any of the community testing sites in Sussex, you must:

  • be aged 18 or older
  • 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 COVID-19 test through the NHS or call 119
  • live or work in West Sussex, East Sussex or Brighton & Hove

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 with a PCR test should not be eligible for community testing for 90 days. If you develop symptoms, you should be directed to symptomatic testing sites.

Is the test mandatory or voluntary?

Testing is voluntary, although we hope that many people recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing efforts, to reduce the spread of the virus in our communities.

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.

How can I book a test?

You can book a symptom-free COVID-19 test using the online booking system or call 01243 642130.

What if I need to change or cancel my booking?

You can do this by using the link on your confirmation email.

What if 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 a test?

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

Where can I get tested?

Test sites are available at participating community pharmacies across West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove. 

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

How frequently should I get tested?

We recommend you take a test twice a week with three or four days between tests.

What type of test is being used?

Community testing uses Lateral Flow Devices (LFD).

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 on to the LFD. The sample runs along the surface of the device's absorbent strip, showing at the end a visual positive or negative result dependent on the presence of the virus.

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), which is more sensitive than the symptom-free 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 as opposed to 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 should I bring with me to the testing site?

You will need your booking reference and ID.

Additionally you will need to have a smartphone, or similar device to register yourself onto the test logging system. If you have previously registered an NHS account your personal details will not need registering each time you take a test. If you do not have a device capable of registering yourself the site will be able to assist you with this.

If you are visiting a pharmacy and you require assistance to do the swab test you can bring someone to assist you with this as we can’t guarantee that 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 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 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 who processes 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 and you should continue with your day.

We'd recommend you continue to socially distance, wear a face mask when required and maintain hand hygiene as usual during this time.

What if I can’t do the test on my own?

If you are visiting a pharmacy and you require assistance to do the swab test please bring someone to assist you with this as we can’t guarantee that that the pharmacy will be able to do this for you.

What happens if I can’t make my appointment?

If you can’t attend your appointment please cancel your appointment 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 prior to your appointment. If you find you can’t attend on the day of your test you will be recorded as ‘did not attend’. You will be able to book another slot.

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

Currently there will be 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.

How will I receive my result?

You will receive your result from NHS Test and Trace through a text 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 results can be shared with you. To save time, you can register online to create an NHS account in advance

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

What happens if I get a positive result?

If you receive a positive LFD test result from an assisted test you will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace. You must self-isolate immediately. You could be fined if you do not do this.

You will also need to take a follow-up PCR test at a Rapid Test Site within 2 days of getting your test. For example, if you test positive on Monday, you have until the end of Wednesday to get your follow-up PCR test.

While waiting for your follow-up PCR test result you should follow the stay at home guidance. If you receive a negative follow-up PCR test result, you can stop self-isolating.

Advice for travelling home when you receive notification of a positive test

If you receive a positive test result you must:

  • travel home immediately, wearing a face covering
  • travel home in your own vehicle or by walking or cycling, 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 by walking or cycling

Asymptomatic contacts of positives cases should go home as they would normally do. If the contact becomes symptomatic, they should follow same travel advice as positive cases.

What support is available to individuals that test positive?

If you are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace:

You can also get advice or support from our community hub. They may be able to help you with:

  • food, shopping or medicine deliveries
  • advice around money, benefits or debt
  • daily living activities
  • feelings of loneliness and social isolation

What happens if I get a negative result?

If you test negative, this does not completely rule out infection with COVID-19, as there can be false negative results. You should continue to follow guidance to protect yourself and others.

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 PCR test like you would if you had symptoms. 

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 must follow the latest guidance around self-isolation. Please note that this changed on 16 August 2021.

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

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 through a PCR test, should 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 recently (within 90 days) tested positive for COVID-19 by a symptom free or symptomatic test, you are likely to have developed some immunity, and therefore a repeat LFD test is unlikely to be necessary within this 90 day 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.

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

Yes. Until we know more about the way the virus spreads in those that have been vaccinated, the advice is that those who have been vaccinated should still get tested if they are eligible, as there is a chance they might still get or spread the virus.

It is extremely important that you get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can.

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 an LFD test. The test detects current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 rather than the immune response caused by getting vaccinated.

Are LFD tests able to detect the new virus variants?

LFDs have been tested against the new virus variants of concern and have successfully detected these variants.

As part of an ongoing validation programme LFDs are tested against any new variants.

Who can I contact if I have a question about the community testing programme?

You can call the West Sussex Community Hub on 01243 642130 if you have a question about the community testing programme is Sussex. 

Even if you live in East Sussex or Brighton & Hove please call the West Sussex number.