A PCR Test (not a Lateral Flow Test) is needed if you have any symptoms of COVID-19


The range of tests for COVID-19 can be confusing at times and it is important to know which type of test is to be used for which purpose. The latest advice can be found on the Gov.uk website.  The prolonged COVID-19 pandemic has been understandably frustrating for many of our patients (and staff), but it is essential that we continue to take the necessary precautions. We thank you for your ongoing support and understanding. 

When to do a test for COVID-19?

If you have any of the following, you should isolate at home and book a PCR test. Please note this is different to a Lateral Flow Test:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss (or change) to your sense of smell or taste)
  • if you have been advised to do this test by a healthcare professional

Lateral flow vs PCR Tests - what's the difference?

Lateral Flow Tests are a relatively cheap way of screening the wider population, and should be used only for people that are asymptomatic.  The test is specific, but not always sensitive. This means that a postive lateral flow test is almost always indicative of COVID-19, but a negative test cannot be relied on if a person has symptoms, with sensitivity as low as just 34% in some cases.  The principle behind mass testing asymptomatic patients with Lateral Flow Tests is that even picking up a small number of COVID-19 cases early would be beneficial in helping the overall strategy to reduce contact. Unfortunately negative Lateral Flow Test results are often giving our symptomatic patients false reassurance, often resulting in a lack of adequate isolation and the necessary PCR testing. 

What the current evidence says:
Cochrane review, published on 24 March 2021, investigated whether commercially available, rapid point‐of‐care antigen (lateral flow) and molecular tests were accurate enough to diagnose COVID‐19 infection reliably, and to find out if accuracy differed in people with and without symptoms. 
The reviewers included 64 studies published up to September 2020, which investigated 16 different antigen tests and five different molecular tests.  
They found that in people with confirmed COVID‐19, antigen tests correctly identified COVID‐19 infection in an average of 72% (ranging from 34% to 88%) of people with symptoms, compared with 58% of people without symptoms. In addition, they found that the tests were most accurate when used in the first week after symptoms developed. 

PCR tests can detect very tiny amounts of RNA, meaning they are extremely sensitive.  However no test is 100% reliable. They are the best test for current infection

They are free and easy to book on the Government website (or call 119 if you are struggling to book online). 

Further information on COVID-19 tests and the difference between them can be found here

What if I have had the COVID-19 vaccine?

Whether you have had one, two or three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is still possible to get COVID-19 and transmit the virus to others. The vaccines have helped to reduce the rate of death and transmission following COVID-19 infection.  However, transmission and serious illness always remains a possibility with COVID-19, so it is important to continue following government guidance regarding hygeine measures, testing and vaccination. 

Please note that some people cannot be vaccinated for medical or personal reasons. 

How many positive cases are in our area?

The data (including local data) is currently published daily here, and a simple summary here

At the time of writing this post, the latest data at local authority level for Redcar and Cleveland provided on 18/10/2021 indicates 724 new cases in the last 7 days (up 42.8% from the previous 7 days).  

Coronavirus remains a serious health risk. You should stay cautious to help protect yourself and others.