If you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments, you can get free lateral flow tests to test for COVID-19. The way you access these is changing in England and Northern Ireland. You can no longer order them online and you must go to a pharmacy for them. It is not clear if the system is also changing in Wales or Scotland.
For more information on treatments for COVID-19:
Who can get free tests for COVID-19?
You can get free tests for COVID-19 if you are eligible for treatments. You can find out more information about who is eligible in our treatments article HERE. If you are eligible for treatments, you should keep a pack of tests at home so that you can test for COVID-19 if you have any symptoms.
How do I order free tests?
The way you get free tests is different in different areas of the UK. You can click on the sections below to read how it works in your nation:
From 6th November 2023, in England, you can only get free tests from a pharmacy. You can not order them online or on the phone. We currently have limited information about how this will work and will update this page when we are able.In England, you can receive free tests if you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments. Pharmacies can only give you one box of 5 tests at a time.
To receive your free tests, you may need to prove you are eligible. You can prove you are eligible by:
- Showing your NHS letter which tells you that you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments,
- Showing copies of prescriptions or medications that make you eligible for COVID-19 treatments,
- Talking with the pharmacist about your medical history so they know you have a health condition which makes you eligible for COVID-19 treatments.
Can someone else take in my proof and collect the tests for me?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you should not collect the tests yourself. You may also find it difficult to collect the tests if you are unwell or shielding. A friend, relative or carer can collect tests for you, or you may be able to book a volunteer responder by calling 0808 196 3646. Anyone collecting free tests for you should give the pharmacy these personal details about you:
- your condition or conditions
- your NHS number
- your full name
- your date of birth
- your address
If you have a letter or email confirming your eligibility then they should take this with them too.
I don’t have a letter proving I’m eligible, can I still get tests?
If you are eligible for tests, you do not need a letter. However, having a letter might help you get your tests more quickly or more easily. We know that lots of people who are eligible for treatments do not have a letter or no longer have the letter they were sent. If the pharmacist will not give them to you because you do not have a letter, you can show them this page which has advice for pharmacies, including that they should ask for medical history if the person does not have a letter. You can also try a different pharmacy if you have access to one. We will update this page when we have any new information or advice.
Will my local pharmacy definitely have free tests?
It is not yet clear if all pharmacies will be providing the free tests as pharmacies can choose if they will be providing the service or not. It is also not clear if pharmacies will be required to keep stock specifically for eligible patients. If the pharmacist will not give them to you, or say they do not know about the scheme, you can try a different pharmacy if you have access to one. You can also try showing them this article. We will update this page when we have any new information or advice.
How often can I collect tests from the pharmacy?
You can collect tests as often as you need. It’s a good idea to make sure you always have at least three tests at home in case you get any symptoms.
It is not yet clear if the way you access tests in Wales will change. We will update this page when we have more information.In Wales, you can order free tests if you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments. You can order free tests by phoning 119 (Rydym yn croesawu galwadau’n Gymraeg / We welcome calls in Welsh). You can also order online on this website .
You can find out more information on accessing COVID-19 tests on the NHS Wales website here.
NHS Scotland have set up a new website for ordering tests online. You need to register on that page the first time you use it.
You can find out more information on accessing COVID-19 tests and treatments in Scotland on the NHS Scotland website here.
In Northern Ireland, you can only get free tests from a pharmacy. You can not get them online or on the phone. You can get a free tests from the pharmacy if you are:
- Eligible for COVID-19 treatments, or
- You’re a carer for someone who is eligible and you have COVID-19 symptoms.
It is not yet clear how you prove to the pharmacy you or the person you are collecting the tests for is eligible. We will update this page when we have any new information or advice.
You can find out more information about access to tests and COVID-19 treatments in Northern Ireland on the NI Direct website here.