Government plans system for GPs to authorise at-home tests

System will allow clinicians to authorise kits to be sent out

The government is planning to spend up to £2m over the coming years on a platform that will allow GPs to sign off on requests from people with acute respiratory illness to be issued with at-home testing kits.

Such a system would allow patients to complete the process of consultation and testing entirely remotely.

Recently published procurement information reveals that the UK Health Security Agency is seeking to appoint a supplier “provide a mechanism for GPs to authorise a patient – that they have seen through a telemedicine consultation for an acute respiratory illness – to receive a swab kit that they can self-administer”.

Completed tests would then be sent to UKHSA or another laboratory facility, which would provide the results to the chosen provider to then pass on to the patient and medical professionals.

The public-health agency intends to award an initial two-year contract, through it up £400,000 a year will be spent. The deal will provide authorities with the option to extend the engagement up to a potential term of five years or value of £1.9m.

“This is a demand led contract and capped by available budget this would be a contract with a zero-value commitment,” the procurement notice said. “The ceiling price recognises the planned aspirational growth through promotion of this service by UKHSA and RCGP (Royal College of General Practitioners), in collaboration with the supplier, to encourage greater use by GP surgeries.”

Bids for the contract close today, 11 April, with the deal due to come into effect in June.

Sam Trendall

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