[Withdrawn] Finding and choosing a private coronavirus (COVID-19) test provider

Updated 30 November 2022

This guidance was withdrawn on

Thank you for your continued support throughout the United Kingdom’s response to COVID-19.

In line with the Living with COVID-19 strategy, in order to reduce the burden on providers and ensure policy alignment, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has withdrawn the published GOV.UK list of providers.

What private COVID-19 testing services are available

Not all providers offer the same testing services. Before you look for a private provider, you’ll need to identify what testing service you need.

Pre-departure travel tests (‘fit to fly’)

You may need proof of a negative COVID-19 test before travelling abroad. Providers often call these fit to fly tests. The testing requirements are set by the country you want to travel to, and sometimes the airline you’re flying with. Private providers offering these tests must meet the government’s minimum standards for general population testing services in order to legally provide the services. We do not currently host a separate list for ’fit to fly’.

Check the FCDO travel advice pages to find out the testing requirements of the country you want to visit.

General population COVID-19 tests

Some providers offer ‘general population’ COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic individuals who want to book and pay for their own test.

Please note that not all providers listed on the general population COVID-19 test providers will offer pre-departure testing and travellers must use the type of test required by the country they want to travel to.

How to choose a provider

There are several steps to take and things to consider when arranging a private COVID-19 test.

Find a provider

Find a private provider offering the testing service you need.

You can use one of the provider lists on GOV.UK, or find one using your own research.

If your test is for travel purposes, your travel operator may be able to help you find a provider.

Check the provider is listed on GOV.UK

Consumers can find providers on the GOV.UK list which have self-declared against the government’s minimum standards. Some providers who have completed the self-declaration have opted not to be published on the GOV.UK list.

There are different minimum standards for different testing schemes – read more about minimum standards below.

This means that consumers should always check the specific list for the testing service they require.

Members of the public are encouraged to find a test provider via the appropriate GOV.UK list to ensure they are self-certified as meeting the government’s minimum standards, although it is always recommended that consumers carry out their own independent research before choosing a specific private provider.

Check the provider’s terms and conditions

Visit the provider’s website to check their terms and conditions, and other details about their service.

Things you’ll want to consider include:

  • the total cost of the testing service
  • where and how you want to take the test – for example, a self-swab at home, or supervised at a test site
  • how long you’ll have to wait to get test results
  • how the provider deals with any complaints regarding their service
  • what the provider’s refunds policy is in case your plans change

Many providers send test kits by post or courier – you should leave enough time for your test kit to arrive. If you need an in-person test, check with providers directly whether this is possible.

Some airlines and travel operators offer discounts on travel tests – check their websites to find out more.

Check consumer reviews for the provider

You’ll need to carry out your own research to check the provider’s reputation. For example, use consumer review websites, or personal recommendations.

The government does not endorse, recommend or approve any private test provider.

Minimum standards and UKAS accreditation

By law, all COVID-19 tests must meet certain minimum standards set by the government. Providers must also complete a declaration stating that their tests meet these standards.

For more information, and to see the standards for testing, read Minimum standards for private sector providers of COVID-19 testing.

UKAS accreditation

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) has been working with the government to assure the quality of private COVID-19 test providers. In December 2020 the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) developed a 3-stage UKAS accreditation process.

Providers offering sample collection (that is, taking the physical swab) and/or sample testing services are required to apply for accreditation from UKAS and must continue to meet high standards and deadlines.

The providers listed on GOV.UK may be at various stages of the accreditation process. They may not have full accreditation. However, they will have shown compliance with the required minimum standards as they progress through the process.

Providers may be removed from the lists at any point if they’re found to be not complying with the minimum standards. This includes not meeting accreditation deadlines.

To find providers who have achieved full UKAS accreditation, visit the UKAS website – you can search by provider name, or the COVID-19 testing service they offer (sampling, point-of-care testing (POCT) or laboratory-based PCR tests).

Lists of providers published on GOV.UK

We publish lists of and information about private providers who have had their self-declaration against the government’s minimum standards successfully assessed.

See the list of providers of general population COVID-19 testing – updated regularly.

There is no separate list for providers offering pre-departure travel tests (fit to fly) – read more about pre-departure travel tests, and how you can find providers offering the service you need.

The government does not comment on commercial practices of specific companies or cases, neither do we endorse, recommend, or approve any private test provider. The providers on the GOV.UK list have demonstrated compliance with the relevant minimum standards for their commercial provision of testing. This includes applying for and being on their journey to achieving accreditation through the 3-stage UKAS accreditation process if they are providing sample collection and/or test analysis services.

When providers get added to the list on GOV.UK

Private providers are added to the GOV.UK list once their self-declaration has been successfully assessed against the government’s minimum standards for their provision of testing services by UKAS.

Not all providers have to be added to the list and can opt out of being published or choose to withdraw their listing from the relevant GOV.UK list. 

If you’re a provider and want to be added to a list, read our guidance for providers.

Why a provider might be removed from the list on GOV.UK

Organisations may be taken off the lists for a number of reasons, including if they’re found to be non-compliant with any of the minimum standards for the test service they’re providing, or when the UKAS applicant is no longer meeting their accreditation deadlines. 

Tests that have already been provided and/or taken remain valid if providers are removed from the list. Private providers will be instructed directly when they can no longer provide testing services.  

How to report problems with private providers

If you’ve had, or are having, a customer service issue with a private test provider, you should raise this with the provider. They are the primary point of contact to help resolve your problem. You should check the provider’s terms and conditions to see if they cover the specific issue you are experiencing.

If the problem cannot be resolved by the provider, read our guidance on consumer rights, including information on support available and useful contacts. Citizens Advice may be able to provide practical advice on your options if you are not sure what your rights are.

In addition, the Competition and Markets Authority offers a reporting service which enables consumers to report a business they believe has behaved unfairly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can also make a complaint about a test provider using the NHS online feedback form. In order to help us to improve the service. However, please note that we will not be able to contact a provider on your behalf, nor can we intervene in any disputes. Problems with your tests such as the service received, a lack of test kits or late or no tests results should be raised with your provider in the first instance. 

What we are doing to protect consumers

We monitor issues raised by the public and data submitted by the provider. We also get reports from other key regulatory and oversight bodies about providers. 

If we become aware that a provider is not offering the high-quality service we expect, we may contact them to highlight our concerns and suggest ways they can improve.  

If we become aware that a provider is not meeting the required minimum standards, or that their activities may be putting public safety at risk, we’ll ask them to make improvements. We may also remove their listing from GOV.UK. 

In certain circumstances, we’ll support regulatory bodies undertaking further investigation of a provider and support any legal actions or interventions.

Where a provider has been removed from the GOV.UK listings, they can ask to be reinstated to the list by providing evidence that they’ve remedied the problem which caused their removal.

We’ll look at the evidence they provide, and put them back into the relevant GOV.UK list if we’re satisfied that they can now deliver a high-quality service to consumers.