Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for hospices

Department Of Health

November 19
14:58 2021


NHS Test and Trace is making weekly COVID-19 testing available to all hospices in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Separate arrangements are in place for hospices in Scotland.

All registered hospices have been contacted with details of how to apply for test kits for their staff and patients. Hospices will be responsible for ordering test kits for both inpatient and community-based settings. Different testing routes apply depending on where the testing will be carried out, and these routes are described in detail in this document.

We will also cover rapid testing for visitors and visiting professionals for inpatient hospice settings.

Why testing is important


  • protects your patients, staff and visitors

  • prevents and controls outbreaks by identifying cases early

  • provides reassurance, allowing those who test negative to carry on working?

Staff with symptoms should not be in work.

We need to carry on testing, and self-isolating if needed, regardless of the vaccine roll-out programme.


For more information you can join our webinars, which are hosted on a regular basis.

These live webinars will talk you through the end-to-end process for hospice testing and will include a live question and answer session with the hospice testing team, who will be happy to answer your questions.

If there are no live webinars available, youll be able to sign up to access a recorded version.

Sign up to hospice testing webinars

1. Summary: testing for hospices

Types of COVID-19 test

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are over 99% effective and pick up positive results at early and late stages of the virus. Completed tests are sent to a lab for processing.

Rapid lateral flow tests are effective at detecting virus in those with high levels of coronavirus in their system. Results are given within 30 minutes and kits do not need to be sent to labs for processing.

About the service

The service covers 3 individual elements:

  • inpatient hospice testing where hospice staff look after patients on site

  • community-based hospice testing where hospice staff visit patients in their own homes

  • visitor testing for testing visitors, including visiting professionals such as faith leaders, before they come into contact with staff or patients in a hospice

Regular asymptomatic testing for hospices in England


All hospice staff should test with:

  • 1 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test every week

  • 1 rapid lateral flow test on the same day as the PCR

  • 1 rapid lateral flow test midweek, 3 to 4 days after their PCR test

Staff must take a rapid lateral flow test before starting work if returning from leave or if they have worked somewhere else in between. If a staff member tests positive from a rapid lateral flow test, they must take a confirmatory PCR test and self-isolate until the result is available.


Patients should be tested with one PCR on admission (if appropriate), and ad hoc if required (if they are presenting symptoms).

Patient-facing volunteers

This guidance is only for patient-facing volunteers, who come into direct contact or carry out support work with hospice patients.

All patient-facing volunteers working at your hospice should test themselves with:

  • 1 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test every week

  • 1 rapid lateral flow test on the same day as the PCR

  • 1 rapid lateral flow test midweek, 3 to 4 days after their PCR test

You can provide test kits for patient-facing volunteers using your current stock of test kits provided by NHS Test and Trace.

Please also ensure your patient-facing volunteers register their test kits the same way as staff, using the hospices Unique Organisation Number (UON).

If you need to order more test kits for patient-facing volunteers at your hospice, you can order them by adding the number of volunteers to the number of staff in the ordering portal. Please double-check your stock levels before you order.

If you are going to need more test kits for patient-facing volunteers than you are able to order, please call 119 and ask for your staff numbers to be updated. You will need to give both the number of staff and the number of patient-facing volunteers. You should only order additional test kits for volunteers who are actively working with patients at your hospice.

Patient-facing volunteers who come into the hospice once a week or less should be tested as a visitor would, with a lateral flow test either on entry or on the day of their visit at home (with evidence of a negative result).

Other volunteers

In order to protect lab capacity and prioritise protecting the most vulnerable, non-patient-facing volunteers (such as shop, administration and maintenance volunteers) should order their own free packs of rapid lateral flow tests to be sent to their home via GOV.UK.

Rapid response testing for hospices in England

If a positive case is identified in a hospice setting (from a PCR or rapid lateral flow test), all staff should undertake daily rapid lateral flow test testing for 7 days.

If one of these is positive, a confirmatory PCR must be taken and then self-isolation until result is available.

In addition to this, if any positive cases found in a hospice (either PCR or rapid lateral flow test), the hospice manager should contact their local health protection team (HPT) immediately, and follow the advice given.

Regular asymptomatic testing for hospices in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland


  • all staff once a week using a PCR test

  • patients upon admission (if appropriate)

Northern Ireland:

  • all staff once a week using a PCR test

  • patients upon admission (if appropriate)

  • all visitors to hospices will be offered twice weekly self-testing (in the visitors own homes) using lateral flow devices

Scotland: testing is delivered locally through the local NHS.

Unique organisation number (UON)

  • NHS Test and Trace assigns all participating organisations a single unique organisation number (UON)

  • Managers will receive their UON via the registered email address. Please make sure that the person who receives these emails understands the importance of this message and knows who to contact

  • A UON is an 8-digit number that is exclusive to an individual organisation this can be used to login to all online elements of the testing process

Managers will need to use their UON for:

  • ordering test kits

  • contacting the national coronavirus contact centre for support (dial 119)

Staff will need to use their UON for:

If you have any issues with this process, please call 119.

Frequency of testing if you test positive

If anyone tests positive with a PCR test they should not be tested again for 90 days, unless they develop new symptoms. If that happens, they should be tested immediately using a

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