Government move to continue free COVID-19 testing for optics welcomed

Free access to lateral flow tests confirmed for NHS staff

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has welcomed the announcement from the Government yesterday that free COVID-19 tests will continue to be available to help protect specific groups when universal testing ends on 1 April.

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said that COVID-19 tests would continue to be free for NHS staff in primary care and that asymptomatic lateral flow testing will continue from April in some high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly. The statement also confirmed that the cost will be met within existing funding arrangements.

In response to the announcement, Adam Sampson, Chief Executive of the AOP, said:

“The continuation of free COVID-19 testing for primary care staff is a welcomed move. This decision will help protect optical teams and their patients from infection and reduce the spread of the virus while prevalence remains high. No doubt, the added assurances to continue asymptomatic lateral flow testing within existing funding arrangements comes as a relief to many eye care practitioners – most of whom spend their day working in close proximity to patients, in the testing room.”

COVID-19 testing for Optical teams

From 1 April, in line with UK Health Security Agency advice (UKHSA), NHS staff testing will operate as follows:

  • NHS patient facing staff should continue to test twice weekly when asymptomatic. LAMP testing will no longer be available after 31 March. LFD tests will continue to be available through the portal for NHS staff working in a patient-facing role. NHS England is working with UKHSA to determine how routine asymptomatic testing should be stepped down in line with any decrease in prevalence rates
  • Symptomatic NHS staff should test themselves using LFDs. LFD tests will continue to be available through the portal for NHS staff in England with symptoms
  • Staff who test positive should continue to follow the current return to work guidance. LFDs to support this guidance will continue to be available through the portal for NHS staff in England
  • Staff who are household contacts of a positive COVID-19 case will now be able to continue to work as normal if they remain asymptomatic and continue to test twice weekly. They will no longer be required to have a PCR test in order to return to work
  • Staff undertaking COVID-19 tests as part of a research study (eg SIREN) should follow the protocols of their study. Please contact your local study coordinator for further details
  • Staff should undertake COVID-19 tests on an ad hoc basis if instructed by their employer or director of public health in specific circumstances. Staff will be notified via their line management structure if this applies to them


For more information, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2040.

Notes to Editors

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 82% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit