Testing programme

A new COVID-19 testing programme has been launched in Southampton. This is a partnership between Southampton City Council, the University of Southampton and the NHS, alongside a wider Hampshire network of public services. It has been commissioned by the Department for Health and Social Care and paid for by the Government.

The programme is assessing the feasibility of at-home COVID-19 saliva testing for whole households, to help stop the spread of the virus as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Selected key workers from the NHS and council and their households have been invited to participate in this testing programme. Some University of Southampton staff and their households will also participate, alongside some University of Southampton students who are currently living in halls of residence. What we learn from this first phase will help us assess the feasibility of more widespread testing in the future.

You will be contacted directly if you have been selected to be tested. Please do not attempt to register or contact the programme team if you have not received an invitation.

If you have been asked to take part and have a question, please use the contact details in your invitation letter.

Frequently asked questions

Why is this testing programme happening? 

Knowing who has COVID-19 is vital to stopping its spread. The aim of this programme is to learn about the feasibility of at-home saliva testing, including how best to deliver and collect tests from entire households, and get results back to people as quickly as possible.

How many people will be tested? 

Taking part will be voluntary but we are hoping to test around 14,000 people over the course of a month as part of the initial phase of the programme.

What is this test for? 

This test will tell participants if they had COVID-19 at the time they took the test. They will receive a positive or negative result. This test will not tell participants if they have had COVID-19 in the past, and a negative result will not prevent them catching it in the future.

What does the test involve? 

Participants are being asked to provide a saliva sample at home, which is then sent for analysis in a laboratory. They will receive their results in a text message, normally within 24 hours and no later than 48 hours.

Are children included in the programme? 

Yes - testing using saliva means that the programme can safely include very young children and babies.

How accurate is the test? 

No test is completely accurate, but this test has been shown to be as good as others and it is easier to carry out at home.

Why has Southampton been chosen for this programme? 

Southampton has a diverse population, multiple transport links and a mixed economy, as well as unique academic and NHS expertise. All these factors combined make us an ideal location for this programme.

Does the programme involve contact tracing? 

This programme works alongside the national NHS Test and Trace service.

Will Southampton be treated differently to other UK cities, potentially with an early release from lockdown? 

Southampton will not receive special treatment for hosting this programme, but the work will go a long way towards informing plans for further testing across the country, to help us return to our daily lives as safely as possible.

How is the programme funded? 

The UK Government is funding the programme.

What does success look like for the programme? 

We would consider the programme a success if we had a high participation rate, smooth reliable distribution and collection of kits and samples, and if an overwhelming majority of participants received results within 24 hours. It would also see positive cases efficiently referred to the NHS Test and Trace service.

If I’m asked to take part, what will happen to my personal data? 

You’ll receive information about how we’ll use and protect your personal information before you register for the programme. Your test results will be added to your medical record before being sent to you on the mobile phone number provided at registration. Only your GP and other authorised NHS staff, Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace staff can access your test results. No-one else will be able to see your personal test results.