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Lateral flow tests: analysis finds fewer than one false positive per 1000 tests

New research has supported the effectiveness of lateral flow tests as businesses with fewer than 50 employees become eligible for free COVID-19 workplace testing

Analysis of 1.7 million COVID-19 tests carried out in the community using lateral flow testing devices (LFD) has revealed that fewer than one in a thousand tests falsely flag an individual as having coronavirus when they do not.

The Department of Social Health and Care report described the results of a study where Public Health England and Oxford University compared the performance of the Innova LFD device against the gold-standard PCR test.

Using data from community testing, rapid testing in educational settings and asymptomatic test sites, researchers found that the LFD test has a specificity of at least 99.9%.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock highlighted that one in three people with coronavirus do not have symptoms but may still be infectious.

“This means they could be spreading the virus without realising it. Rapid testing can help detect asymptomatic cases quickly, preventing the virus from entering schools, colleges or workplaces, and stopping outbreaks before they occur,” he said.

Eligibility for free lateral flow testing in the workplace has recently been extended by the Government, enabling businesses with fewer than 50 employees to sign up for the scheme.

Previously all GOS contractors were able to access free lateral flow tests for their staff, regardless of size, but private optometry practices needed to have more than 50 staff to be eligible.

Business that would like to sign up for workplace testing are encouraged to register their interest by 31 March through an online portal.

Optometrist and OT multimedia clinical editor, Ceri Smith-Jaynes, has shared her experience and tips on how her practice has been using lateral flow testing. Read the OT article here.