Many patients are keen to know whether they have already had COVID-19. At the end of May the government announced the availability for antibody testing for COVID-19 and that this would be available to the public.
There are two different types of test for COVID-19: a swab test which is taken when you have symptoms and tells you whether you have the virus right now; and an antibody test which is a blood taken when you are well which tells you whether you have had COVID-19 in the past. This infographic explains the difference.
What does it mean if the antibody test result is positive?
A positive antibody test will tell you whether you’ve previously had the virus that causes COVID-19 and that your body has produced an immune response.
There is no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who have been proven to have had the virus and to have produced antibodies are immune.
If you receive a positive antibody result it does not mean that you’re immune, or that you cannot pass on the virus to others. It also does not mean that you can ignore social distancing measures.
Our understanding of the virus will grow as new scientific evidence and studies emerge. COVID-19 is a new disease, and our understanding of the body’s immune response to it is limited. We do not know, for example, how long an antibody response lasts, whether the antibodies produced are effective in neutralising the virus, or whether having antibodies means a person cannot transmit the virus to others.
In time, as the science develops and our understanding of the disease increases, we will have answers to these questions.
Can I have an antibody test now?
The governments antibody testing is at an early stage so priority is currently being given to certain groups.
The guidance in South West London is that an antibody test should only be offered to:
- Front line staff working in the NHS
- To patients already having a blood test for other reasons who wish this test to be added
- Where a clinician feels that the test is clinically relevant
It is important to reiterate that the science is currently uncertain and a positive test result for antibodies only means than an individual has had COVID-19. There is currently no evidence to show it means someone cannot be re-infected with the virus, or pass it on to others, or have protective immunity.
If you are a member of front line NHS staff OR you are already having a blood test and wish to have a COVID-19 antibody test added then Nelson Medical Practice can arrange this for you. If these conditions to not apply then we are not able to arrange a test at this time.
It is important to note that all anonymised test result are shared with Public Health England as part of the pandemic monitoring process.
How does testing work?
If you are a member of front line NHS staff or you are already having a blood test and wish to have a COVID-19 antibody test added to your request please contact us.
Once a form is ready you will receive a text message. You need to collect this from the practice’s reception on the first floor. You don’t need an appointment to attend for a blood test on the ground floor at the Nelson Health Centre. Blood testing is open 08.00 – 15.30 Monday to Friday and 08.00 – 13.30 Saturday. Please wear a face covering and ensure social distancing whilst you wait.
YOU SHOULD NOT COLLECT A BLOOD FORM OR ATTEND FOR A BLOOD TEST IF YOU OR A MEMBER OF YOUR HOUSEHOLD HAVE SYMPTOMS OF FEVER, COUGH OR LOSS OF SENSE OF SMELL.
If you have symptoms your whole household needs to isolate and you can contact NHS 111 Online for advice and to arrange a SWAB test.
Once your blood test result is available you will receive it by text message. Please allow 5 working days for your result. If you have not heard after this, please contact the practice on 020 3826 0826.
Whatever your test result it is very important that you continue to follow all government guidance around social distancing. Whatever your test result, if you develop symptoms of fever, cough or loss of sense of smell your whole household needs to and you can contact NHS 111 Online for advice and to arrange a SWAB test.