Antibody testing for GPs

Antibody Testing – Phased Implementation in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire (BOB) ICS

This week a national communication about the availability of antibody testing has been sent to you. This is to clarify that the initial phase of antibody testing has started from 29th May in acute hospital setting and not in general practice and that further information is provided below.

Across the BOB Integrated Care System, a working group is being established to focus on Antibody Testing. Each NHS region is coordinating its own specific arrangements to roll out antibody testing to NHS staff, to be delivered through local infrastructure. The working group will focus on the additional operational aspects around blood testing, as the antibody test is not a swab and requires phlebotomy.

The initial phase of antibody testing roll-out, in line with national guidance, will focus on the testing of priority staff and patients in acute hospital settings. This phase commences on 29th May 2020. The programme will then expand over the following weeks to cover community and primary care-based NHS and social care staff. Patients in the community, where indicated based on their clinician’s advice, will be also eligible for antibody testing on a priority basis once this phase is rolled out. A timetable for the expansion of the programme into the primary care, community health services and mental health will be shared in due course.

We are working closely with our partners to ensure consistent messaging across all types of testing, as the eligibility, routes to access and testing capabilities are different for each type of test. Further information will be provided on antibody testing as the phased roll-out progresses.

It is important to reiterate that the science is currently uncertain and a positive test result for antibodies only means than an individual has had Covid-19. There is currently no evidence to show it means someone cannot be re-infected with the virus, or pass it on to others, or have protective immunity. All infection prevention and control measures must continue to be in place irrespective of the presence of antibodies. Public Health England is conducting a study to establish whether antibodies detected by this test do indicate immunity to Covid-19.

Suggested external facing comms for GP websites and communications with the public

Antibody testing is being rolled out in Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire and Berkshire in a safe and phased way. It has begun within our hospitals. We will keep you updated as to when this test is available to wider staff and patient groups. Meanwhile, please may we request that you do not ask your GP about availability. This will help us to help you with all other urgent calls.

Please also note that as this is a new disease we don’t yet know if having antibodies means you are immune.