NHS Test and Trace

The NHS Test and Trace service forms a central part of the government’s coronavirus recovery strategy.

This means that:

  • anyone with symptoms will be tested and their close contacts will be traced
  • people who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive must isolate for 10 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus (people who are fully vaccinated [two jabs plus 14 days to ensure the vaccine has become effective] and young people under the age of 18 years and 6 months, no longer need to self-isolate but are recommended to get a PCR test).

Organisations and businesses in the leisure and hospitality sector, as well as other providers of communal services, are no longer legally required to collect contact details of staff, customers and visitors to their venues/premises, but are still encouraged to do so.

Organisations and businesses are still encouraged to promote the use of the COVID-19 app or otherwise collect the names and contact phone numbers of those attending their premises (staff, clients/customers and visitors), the date and arrival/departure times and store this information securely for 21 days, after which it can be safely deleted (unless already required for business purposes). They should share this information if contacted by NHS Test and Trace and advised to let their staff and customers know that their information will be shared for this purpose and this purpose only. 

All establishments/venues which continue to keep records of staff working patterns/shifts for 21 days should then delete this information if no longer required for work purposes.  The link to the full guidance on maintaining records (below) also identifies how the official NHS QR Code posters can be displayed in premises and how organisations can register for an official NHS QR Code poster.  The NHS QR code will allow people to check-in with the NHS Covid-19 app.

Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace

NHS staff who test positive for coronavirus will be contacted by the NHS test and trace service. They must share the information requested to help track contacts and reduce the spread of the virus.

You may also be contacted by the test and trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

There is some specific guidance for health and social care staff, patients and residents.

NHS staff who have had close contact with someone with Covid-19 must self-isolate if the NHS test and trace services advises them to do so. This does not apply to staff who are fully vaccinated.  However, staff who are fully vaccinated who wish to return to work should have a PCR test and take daily rapid LFD tests for 10 days and must self-isolate if any tests are positive. Close contact excludes circumstances where PPE is being worn in accordance with current guidance.

For staff who are not fully vaccinated self-isolation for 10 days is required even if you have no symptoms. If subsequent tests prove negative you should continue to isolate for the 10-day period. If you test positive you must continue to stay home for 10 days or until the symptoms have passed.

All NHS staff - if you are contacted outside work you are subject to the same test and trace protocols as all other members of the public. If contacted by the Test and Trace service and advised to self-isolate for 10 days, then you must do so unless fully vaccinated, as described above.

Please note contact tracers will contact you by phone (using 0300 013 5000) or by text (from NHS). They will ask for your full name, date of birth and postcode to confirm your identity, ask if you have symptoms of coronavirus and provide advice about what you should do if you have been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

Staff who are hospitalised with Covid-19 will be isolated for the original period of 14 days. Patients in hospital with Covid-19 will also be isolated for 14 days.

Social care staff who test positive for coronavirus will be contacted by the NHS test and trace service. They must share the information requested to help track contacts and reduce the spread of the virus. You may also be contacted by the test and trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

There is some specific guidance for health and social care staff, patients and residents.

Social care staff who have had close contact with someone with Covid-19 must self-isolate if the NHS test and trace services advises you to do so, unless you are fully vaccinated (from 11 November 2021 all staff working in a care home must be fully vaccinated). If fully vaccinated and a close contact you may return to work if you have a negative PCR test and have negative daily LFD tests for 10 days. If you develop symptoms of coronavirus you should self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days. You are permitted to leave self-isolation to get a test or to take a home test to a priority post box.

Close contact excludes circumstances where PPE is being worn in accordance with current guidance. As with anyone else who is not fully vaccinated, self-isolation for 10 days is required even if you have no symptoms. If subsequent tests prove negative you should continue to isolate for the 10-day period. If you test positive you must continue to stay home for 10 days or until the symptoms have passed.

All social care and care home staff - if you are contacted outside work you are subject to the same test and trace protocols as all other members of the public. If contacted by the Test and Trace service and advised to self-isolate for 10 days, then you must do so unless fully vaccinated.

Please note contact tracers will contact you by phone (using 0300 013 5000) or by text (from NHS). They will ask for your full name, date of birth and postcode to confirm your identity, ask if you have symptoms of coronavirus and provide advice about what you should do if you have been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

Residents who test positive for coronavirus should be isolated for 14 days.  The same applies to new residents who test positive arriving from other settings.

The test and trace service applies to everyone.  Anyone with symptoms will be tested and their close contacts will be traced. If you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive you will be notified by the test and trace service and must isolate for 10 days, even if you have no symptoms. This avoids unknowingly spreading the virus. If you develop symptoms you should immediately book a test or call 119 if you have no internet connection.

[This does not apply if you are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 years and 6 months, when self-isolation as a close contact is not required (although you are encouraged to get a PCR test)].

If you test negative and you are not fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 years and 6 months you should still continue to isolate for 10 days. It can take up to 10 days for the virus to make itself known in the body, so a negative test at this stage does not necessarily mean you do not have the virus.

If you test positive you must continue to stay at home for 10 days or until the symptoms have passed. If your symptoms get worse you should contact the NHS 111 online service or call NHS 111.  

There is additional guidance for anyone contacted by the test and trace service and does not live with the person who has been confirmed to have the virus.

Please note contact tracers will contact you by phone (using 0300 013 5000) or by text (from NHS). They will ask for your full name, date of birth and postcode to confirm your identity, ask if you have symptoms of coronavirus and provide advice about what you should do if you have been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

The Government has provided additional guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service for employers, businesses and workers.

It is no longer a legal requirements, but businesses and organisations in the leisure and hospitality sector, as well as other providers of communal services, are still encouraged to collect contact details of staff, customers and visitors to their venues/premises in order to support NHS Test and Trace in containing outbreaks and protecting the public and themselves. This includes pubs, restaurants, cinemas, hairdressers, Town Halls, civic centres, places of worship and many others. They can continue to collect names and contact phone numbers of those attending their premises, the date and arrival/departure times and store this information securely for 21 days, after which it can be safely deleted (unless already required for business purposes). Full guidance on maintaing NHS Test and Trace records.

The test and trace service applies to everyone.  Anyone with symptoms will be tested and their close contacts will be traced. If you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive you will be notified by the test and trace service and must isolate for 14 days, even if you have no symptoms. This avoids unknowingly spreading the virus. If you develop symptoms you should immediately book a test or call 119 if you have no internet connection.

[This does not apply if you are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 years and 6 months, when self-isolation as a close contact is not required (although you are encouraged to get a PCR test)].

If you test negative and you are not fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 years and 6 months you should still continue to isolate for 10 days. It can take up to 10 days for the virus to make itself known in the body, so a negative test at this stage does not necessarily mean you do not have the virus.

If you test positive you must continue to stay at home for 10 days or until the symptoms have passed. If your symptoms get worse you should contact the NHS 111 online service or call NHS 111.  

There is additional guidance for anyone contacted by the test and trace service and does not live with the person who has been confirmed to have the virus.

Please note contact tracers will contact you by phone (using 0300 013 5000) or by text (from NHS). They will ask for your full name, date of birth and postcode to confirm your identity, ask if you have symptoms of coronavirus and provide advice about what you should do if you have been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

The Government has provided additional guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service for employers, businesses and workers.

It is no longer a legal requirements but businesses and organisations in the leisure and hospitality sector, as well as other providers of communal services, are encouraged to collect contact details of staff, customers and visitors to their venues/premises in order to support NHS Test and Trace in containing outbreaks and protecting the public and themselves. This includes pubs, restaurants, cinemas, hairdressers, Town Halls, civic centres, places of worship and many others. They may continue to collect names and contact phone numbers of those attending their premises, the date and arrival/departure times and store this information securely for 21 days, after which it can be safely deleted (unless already required for business purposes).

Full guidance on maintaing NHS Test and Trace records.

NHS Test and Trace Workplace guidance.

The NHS COVID-19 app is a multi-function support tool to help in the surveillance of coronavirus and the delivery of the test and trace service (via venue check-in and contact tracing), to enable more direct action to contain outbreaks and to help people check symptoms, book a test and receive test results.  App users remain anonymous; no personal data is logged - the app tracks the virus, not the people using it. The app is available to everyone aged 16 or over and in multiple languages. All major mobile network providers have agreed that all in-app activity will not come out of customers' data allowance.

The NHS Covid-19 app has six key features:

1) Trace - alerts you if you are in close contact with a confirmed case;

2) Alert - provides you with the risk level for Covid-19 in the area you are in;

3) Check-in - allows you to check in to locations using the app and the official NHS QR codes;

4) Symptoms - allows you to check symptoms agains government guidance and get advice;

5) Test - allows you to order a free test and get results via the app;

6) Isolate - counts down the isolation period and links you to advice.

The contract tracing feature is one of the primary functions of the app and is key in supporting the test and trace service. All staff working across all sectors are encouraged to download the app. Once downloaded the app should be left on as much as possible.

There are a few limited occasions when the contact tracing feature should be paused (by moving the contact tracing toggle on the home screen). This pause function only applies when you:

  • store your phone in a locker while you're working or are involved in a leisure activity, like swimming
  • are already protected by a Perspex (or equivalent) screen
  • are a healthcare worker working in a healthcare building such as a hospital or GP surgery
  • a worker in social care and are wearing medical grade PPE such as a surgical mask.

Visitors to health and social care buildings should not pause the app, even if they are wearing face coverings.  Other app features can still be used when the contact tracing function is paused.

Covid-19 app - workplace guidance on when to pause the app

The NHS COVID-19 app check-in feature enables a venue to register for an official NHS QR code and allows users to ‘check-in’ to participating venues on their app by scanning that code. The information stays on the user’s phone. Venues in England that are expected to maintain customer logs are legally required to ensure that official NHS QR code posters are available for customers to use (see the link below on creating an NHS QR code). This does not include hospitals, GP practices, dentists and community pharmacies, but these are encouraged to display the official NHS QR code in areas where people sit or congregate for 15 minutes or more. Care homes are also advised to have QR posters at entrances and in waiting rooms.

You can download a QR poster here.

Advice and troubleshooting issues relating to the use of QR codes can be found on the app website frequently asked questions (link below).

NHS QR Code poster venue advice and troubleshooting

The NHS Covid-19 app website has a section on more common questions, covering the use of the app, data and privacy, technical queries and other topics - https://faq.covid19.nhs.uk/

All schools and further education colleges have been given specific guidance on the use of the Covid-19 app and the QR codes (see the link below).

Use of the NHS Covid-19 app in schools and further education colleges

A demo video about using the app has also been produced - Demo Video

Please note: to install and use the NHS COVID-19 app, your phone will need Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4 or above and Operating System software Android Marshmallow (v6.0) or iOS 13.5 or above, to load and run the app effectively. This is because the app needs the Exposure Notification framework developed by Apple and Google, which is only available in these versions. The app can be downloaded from the Apple Store or from Google Play.

Additional Test and Trace information

The Government has provided additional guidance on the NHS test and trace service for employers, businesses and workers. This explains how employers and businesses can play their part in the NHS test and trace programme to slow the spread of the virus, make the workplace as safe as possible and support their staff contacted as part of the test and trace process.

Guidance on what people on holiday in England should do if they fall ill with Covid-19 or have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace has been included in the Coronavirus Outbreak FAQs, section 3.4 - 3.6 (see the link below).

Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can't do

Guidance has been issued for employers and third-party healthcare providers who may wish to introduce their own internal testing programmes outside the NHS Test and Trace service (see the link below). This guidance will help them ensure that their testing programmes are as reliable and effective as possible. 

Coronavirus (Covid-19): testing guidance for employers

In addition, the regulations identifying the legal requirements of providers of Covid-19 and influenza tests at the point of care (outside of a laboratory setting) have been amended. Providers are now required to report positive, indeterminate, negative and void results to Public Health England (PHE). For full details of the legal requirements see the link below.

Covid-19 and influenza point of care testing results: how to report

Anyone who has enquires or disputes regarding self-isolation or contact tracing can contact the digital helper service via the NHS T&T Enquiries Service at https://enquiries.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/s/

Anyone unable to access this online portal can contact 119.

Testing for Release for International Travel: From December 15 2020, international arrivals, including British citizens returning from overseas (from areas not on the travel corridor list) can opt-in to testing for release. This allows international travellers who are not fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 years 6 months, who must self-isolate for 10 days if travelling or returning from an amber list country, to take a test after 5 days of isolation and, if it proves negative, to end their self-isolation at that point.

International travellers wishing to avail themselves of this service should book the test in advance, using the passenger locator form (it is possible to book a test on arrival but a new passenger locater form is needed if this is the case), but can only use an authorised private testing provider, registered on the Gov.UK website. A list of private testing providers is now available.

A test for release for international travel using the National Testing Programme (booked via the Gov.UK website or via 119) is not permitted. Private testing providers must declare that they can meet the minimum standards to be registered on the Gov.UK website. The guidance links below outline the minimum standards for private testing providers and identify the self-declaration process to request being added to the Gov.UK list of providers.

Testing to release for international travel: minimum standards for testing

Self-declare as a private Covid-19 testing provider

The NHS COVID-19 app forms one component of the NHS test and trace service. It complements other forms of contact tracing, helping to speed up contact tracing and to reach people who cannot be reached through traditional forms of contact tracing, such as someone you do not know but you have sat next to on public transport. 

The NHS Covid-19 app was released in September 2020. Using the app with the NHS QR code mentioned above will make it much quicker for members of the public with smart phone or tablet technology to record their details at premises/venues.

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