Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in adult care homes

How to access test kits and step-by-step guides on how to use PCR and rapid lateral flow test kits for regular and outbreak testing of residents, staff and visiting professionals.

Applies to England


Care home COVID-19 testing guidance for regular and outbreak testing of staff and residents

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Regular and outbreak COVID-19 testing is available to all adult care homes.

All Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered care homes can apply for regular COVID-19 testing from NHS Test and Trace. If a care home has an outbreak and does not have enough stock to last until their next routine order, place an additional order by calling 119.

Care homes use both rapid lateral flow test and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. Using both combines the rapid results of lateral flow testing with the higher sensitivity of PCR tests. Lateral flow tests will quickly identify some individuals who are highly infectious, enabling swift action to minimise spread of the virus, while the PCR test will identify those with a lower viral load, when the results are received.

New care home residents receive a PCR test when moving from hospital or from the community into a care home. We have published a service model for care homes testing individuals moving into a care home.

Testing is also available for care home visitors (when indoor close contact visits are permitted as per national policy). See further guidance on visiting arrangements in care homes.

See the coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for adult social care (ASC) settings page for:

  • on-site testing for adult social care services: rapid lateral flow test guide
  • step-by-step guide for ASC staff to self-test using rapid lateral flow tests
  • rapid lateral flow testing in ASC settings: an overview
  • coronavirus (COVID-19) testing: terms and conditions
  • coronavirus (COVID-19) self-test for staff, service users and visitors in adult social care settings: privacy notice

Sign up for regular adult care home testing webinars that cover the latest information on testing in care homes and explain the testing process. Local authority and care home staff are welcome.

This guidance should be read with:

Guidance on rapid lateral flow testing for care home visitors and staff in Scotland

Further guidance for nursing and residential care homes in Northern Ireland

Published 24 March 2021
Last updated 29 September 2021 + show all updates
  1. Changes to policy when there is one case of COVID-19 in a care home. Change to LFT testing frequency. Change to policy when there are 2 or more cases of COVID-19 in a care home. Change to ending outbreak restrictions, when they can be lifted and ongoing testing after this period.

  2. Updated 'Care home COVID-19 testing guidance for regular and outbreak testing of staff and residents' to reflect changes to self-isolation guidance that came into effect on 16 August 2021.

  3. Updated 'Care home COVID-19 testing guidance for regular and outbreak testing of staff and residents' and 'COVID-19 testing schedule for a suspected or confirmed outbreak in a care home' to reflect that policy for responding to the Delta variant (first identified in India) in care homes has now changed. As has been the case for the Alpha variant (first identified in Kent) cases since May 2021, for outbreaks involving the Delta variant, end of outbreak testing can now be undertaken 14 days (previously 28) after the most recent positive case. All positive cases should be treated as the Delta variant, unless proven otherwise.

  4. Updated 'Care home COVID-19 testing guidance for regular and outbreak testing of staff and residents' to reflect Scotland moving to 119.

  5. Updated to reflect changes to end of outbreak testing and updated instructions on using the multiple upload spreadsheet, which can now be used to report both rapid lateral flow tests and PCR tests.

  6. Added link to the 'Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for adult social care settings' page and 'Testing for professionals visiting care homes' guidance.

  7. First published.