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NHS staff in Hertfordshire tested for Covid-19 antibodies as part of national study

NHS staff in Hertfordshire are being offered a test to see whether they have COVID-19 antibodies, as part of national research to understand how the virus has spread within communities.

NHS workers in hospitals, community health trusts, mental health trusts and the ambulance service are being tested first, with the antibody testing programme rolling out to all GP practice staff over the next few weeks. All NHS staff are expected to have access to a test during July.

Antibody tests use blood samples to detect the presence of antibodies that show whether a person has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past and has developed an immune response to the virus.

Miranda Sutters, Consultant in Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council said: “The results of antibody tests on NHS staff will help the government and scientists to get a better understanding of how the virus has spread and how different areas have been affected.

“It is important to remember that an antibody test doesn’t tell us anything other than whether or not someone has had COVID-19. Even if someone’s results show that they have antibodies, we don’t know if that person might be able to contract the virus more than once, potentially without experiencing any symptoms. We also don’t know if they can spread the virus to others.

“Whatever the outcome of someone’s antibody test, none of us can afford to become complacent and allow the virus to take hold again. Everyone must continue to follow social distancing, hygiene measures and must isolate if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive for coronavirus.”

Current antibody tests require blood samples to be taken by a trained health professional, using a syringe, which means they are not suitable to be used at home. Some finger-prick home tests have appeared on the market and are available to buy online, but this type of testing has yet to be independently validated and their accuracy cannot be relied on.

In future weeks, as capacity increases to carry out and analyse more antibody tests, the programme will be extended to care home staff and residents, community pharmacists and patients having routine blood tests.

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