A new voluntary COVID-19 testing scheme for staff and postgraduate students working on campus is now available.
On behalf of the College, the Department of Infectious Disease has been working with the College’s Occupational Health team to set up a programme of COVID-19 testing, outbreak preparedness and contact tracing to keep staff and students safe.
This scheme is only for people who are asymptomatic. If you have symptoms, do not book a test through this scheme and do not come onto campus. Instead please follow the NHS advice to book a test.
There will be more information on testing initiatives, but in the first instance we are rolling out the COVID-19 voluntary testing scheme for staff and postgraduate students who are on campus.
This scheme forms one element of a broader strategy for the autumn; we will share more information about that in due course.
A cohort of new students in the Business School will be involved in a pilot study to offer testing to a representative sample of students to identify any that are positive, so that they can promptly self-isolate and reduce transmission. If you are eligible to take part in this pilot you will be contacted directly.
The testing scheme has two aims:
- to estimate the prevalence of asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic infection in staff and postgraduate students who are back on campus
- to identify the rare cases of asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic infection so that those people can promptly isolate and so reduce transmission.
Confidential testing through the NHS
The College is coordinating the offering of this scheme to staff and postgraduate students and will be reviewing the anonymous aggregate results, but the College will not itself be administering or processing any tests - nor will it have any access to individual test results.
Testing is managed confidentially by the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (ICHT) / North West London Pathology service (you can see ICHT’s privacy notice online). Testing is undertaken by the College’s UKAS accredited Molecular Diagnostic Unit (MDU) lab, but all data processing and association between individuals and results will take place in NHS systems under the control of the NHS Trust.
COVID-19 is a notifiable disease, which means it is a statutory requirement for positive tests to be reported to Public Health England, so positive results are immediately passed on to PHE by the NHS team to allow the Test and Trace contact tracing process to be activated.
How to book a test
If you are working on campus or are returning to campus shortly, please consider whether you would like to participate in this scheme and get a test. If you would like to be tested, please review the FAQs below and read the information sheet (Imperial log-in required) for detailed instructions and information on how to book a test. Testing slots are now available up until October.
There will be no drop-in testing sessions at St Mary’s Campus between Monday 7 September to Friday 18 September inclusive. Staff and postgraduate students are of course welcome to attend the drop-in testing sessions at South Kensington and Hammersmith instead. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. Sessions at St Mary’s Campus will resume from Monday 21 September 2020.
Who can book a test?
The scheme is available strictly for employees and registered postgraduate research students College-wide if they are already working on site at a College campus or are about to return to work on campus.
If you are not working on campus, then you will not be able to book a test through this scheme.
Should I come into College for a test if I have symptoms or think I’m infected?
No. If you have symptoms, you should follow the NHS advice to book a test.
When should I get tested?
If you are already on campus you can register to have a test at any time during the scheme. After testing, staff already working on campus may go back to work.
For those planning on returning to work but not yet on site, we would advise (if practical) coming in on the day prior to your return to have a test, then returning home to wait for your result. However, we are fully aware this may not be practical in all circumstances.
You are not required to have a test or wait for a result before returning to campus, but you may wish to discuss with your line manager, for example if you would like to return to campus a day later to wait for your result.
When should I not use this scheme for testing?
If testing is required because you believe you may have developed COVID-19 symptoms then you should remain off campus and inform your line manager in accordance with College policy and get tested through the NHS Test and Trace Scheme.
If testing is required for travel purposes, then you will need to book a private test with a travel clinic who can provide formal travel certification.
The testing scheme should not be used post-travel as a negative COVID-19 test does not shorten self-isolation (for example, you must self-isolate for 14 days regardless of a test result if Government guidance has stipulated this duration following travel from a non-exempt country).
I am a clinical staff member and receive testing through an NHS or other scheme – should I also volunteer for a test through this scheme?
If you are a clinical staff member who is receiving testing via your relevant Trust or other provider, you are not excluded from also participating in this scheme, but there is unlikely to be much additional benefit to you or to this scheme.
How accurate are the tests?
The viral PCR tests that we use have a high sensitivity and specificity, but no test is 100 per cent accurate. Many factors can affect accuracy, and these include the timing of the test, how the swab was taken and how it was handled thereafter.
How do I book a test?
Before you book a test you should read the formal information. A link to book the test is on this webpage, and you will be able to select the location (St Mary’s, Hammersmith or South Kensington Campuses) and date.
What do I need to do for a test?
When you arrive for the test, a member of our team will confirm your identity (please bring your staff or student ID card) and ensure that you understand how to take the swab from your nose and mouth. The swab can cause mild discomfort. View the formal information for more guidance on the process.
How long will it take to get my test results?
The team will aim to process your test and make results available within two working days.
What will I need to do if my test result is positive?
If you receive a positive result you are advised to inform your line manager and self-isolate in line with standard College policy and NHS guidelines. If you are a postgraduate student you are advised to notify the Senior Tutor for your department.
This advice is the same for staff and students who receive positive test results, regardless of where their testing has been undertaken. See further details about how to notify and record absence on the College’s COVID-19 information pages.
Will the College have access to my test results?
No. The College will not have any access to any individual test results undertaken as part of this scheme. Aggregate data of the total number of staff who receive a positive test will be provided to the College, but we will not be told who this relates to or receive any identifiable information about test outcomes. We also will not ‘match’ data about who has requested a test to centrally held College absence or ‘TeamSeer’ information. The only information the College will receive about your individual test will be information you choose to share with your line manager, Senior Tutor or other College colleague.
Why is testing capacity capped per day?
Whilst presently capped at 50 tests per day, the testing scheme is being actively reviewed to help develop College strategy and wider service offerings. For those attending campus, the College has implemented a suite of measures to support our health and reduce the spread of the virus during this pandemic. See the College’s Health and Safety pages on COVID-19 for more information about these measures.
Will tests be repeated?
Testing is prioritised for those newly returning to campus and others who have not had a test before. Individual testing will not be repeated routinely - any unique epidemiological or clinical instances should be discussed and approved by the testing team.
How does this testing align with national test and trace efforts?
If your test is positive the NHS team will notify PHE and you will be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service. Details about what to expect if you are contacted are provided on the NHS website.
Are antibody tests available?
No, currently, the team is only testing for active COVID-19 infection.