Can you still get free lateral flow tests on the NHS?

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It’s not long now until free lateral flow tests (LFTs) will no longer be available on the NHS. The government that announced free LFTs will end on Friday April 1, unless you are over 75, or over 12 with a weakened immune system.

Scotland, however, will offer limited free tests until the end of April, while Wales will keep some testing capacity until July. The changes come after the announcement in February, when the government said that it was no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid in England, but staying at home and avoiding contact with others for five days is still recommended.

Masks are also no longer required in most public spaces, except for healthcare settings. But as cases have continued to increase in the UK, people have been struggling to order free LFTs online due to a lack of availability.

Readmore: Lateral flow advice changes online as people told ‘most tests needed for higher risk’

Twitter user Seedpodder said: “Why does the govt order lateral flow test site ask for all your details before saying they don’t have any?” Sarah Clay added: “Where have all the lateral flow test kits gone in England? Can’t order one online!”

On Monday night, a new message appeared on the government website where free LFTs are ordered from. It warns the user that “most people without Covid-19 symptoms no longer need to take rapid lateral flow tests.”

While the message doesn’t outright prevent the user from ordering their test kit, it does seem to discourage them from doing so. More of the message reads: “Some people still need tests to stay safe, like:

  • NHS staff
  • People who are at higher risk
  • People who are visiting high-risk places.”
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It continues: “We want to make sure tests are available for people who need them most.”

Noticing the update, Laurence Sullivan tweeted: “Odd, for two days now I’ve been told there are no Covid LFT tests available for home delivery. Now this new post appears before you try to order. Even if you go ahead: there’s still none available. Seems the government has quietly shut down the service earlier than promised…”

A UKHSA spokesperson told the Manchester Evening News: “As set out in the Living with COVID plan, from 1 April free tests will only be available for certain groups who are at most risk from the virus.

“In preparation for this change, the gov.uk home ordering channel is asking users to only order test kits if you’re eligible for new COVID-19 treatments, work or volunteer in a high risk setting or support people who are at higher risk from COVID-19. Tests should only be ordered after you have used up any kits you already have at home.”

The UKHSA also said that tests may temporarily be unavailable on gov.uk to manage capacity, but availability is refreshed regularly. The cap on the number of tests distributed per day applies to both home delivery test kits and deliveries of test kits to pharmacies.

Can you still get free LFTs on the NHS?

Yes, free LFTs are still being provided for free via the usual government website but, of course, it depends on the availability of the tests when you put in your order.

Twitter account UK LFT Alert sends updates as to when tests and in and out of stock. The account advised: “Best times of day to try are just after 7am, 2pm and 8pm. They are lasting less than an hour each time.”

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Elsewhere, health and beauty retailer Boots have already started selling LFTs. A pack of five tests is priced at £9.80, a four pack is £7.90 and a two pack is £3.95.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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