Can’t get a free coronavirus test from the NHS or would simply prefer to go private? We reveal how where to find the cheapest PCR Covid test in the UK and explain how they work.
The level of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases has recently risen in the UK, so it's vital that you’re able to get hold of a coronavirus test if you think you might have the virus.
You’ll be able to get a free coronavirus test if you have symptoms, live with someone who does, have been in contact with someone who's tested positive or if you’ve been asked to get a test by your local council, GP or NHS Test and Trace.
It’s generally recommended you take a COVID-19 test within the first eight days of showing symptoms.
Note: want to get the flu vaccine? Head this way for tips on getting a cheap or even free flu jab.
Paying for a private COVID test
Of course, you can get a private COVID-19 test to either find out whether you currently have it (an antigen test) or if you’ve had the virus (an antibody test).
With the antigen test, you take a swab from the back of your throat (around the tonsils) and the inside of your nose using a long cotton bud.
You can get someone to help with the test and those under the age of 11 will need a parent or guardian to assist with the test.
An antibody test works differently. When you get an infection, your body makes antibodies to help fight it, which is what this test looks for.
So, if you have coronavirus antibodies in your blood, you’ve probably already had the virus, but it may not necessarily stop you from catching it again.
If you want an antibody test, it’s usually recommended that you pay for one at a private clinic, where they will take a blood sample and send it to an accredited lab for testing.
You might be able to get an antibody test from the NHS, but this test isn’t available to everyone yet – you can find out whether you’re eligible here.
In this article, we’ll reveal some of the home test kits on sale or tests available in store that let you know whether you currently have coronavirus.
The below home test kits are CE-marked, so they meet European standards for medical testing and are approved for sale in the UK.
We wouldn’t recommend using a COVID-19 test without a CE mark.
Amazon private PCR test - £35
Amazon offers by far the cheapest private PCR test in the UK at £34.99. At the time of publishing, you can even get a discount for buying more than one test.
You'll generally get your results two days after posting your sample.
Note that the basic test won't suffice as proof if you're travelling. Instead, you'll need the Amazon Day 2 and Day 8 test, which costs £63.98 at the time of publishing.
Assured Screening private PCR test - £59
Assured Screening offers swab tests that you can do at home for £69 to find out whether you have COVID-19.
If you need to travel, the Day 2 and Day 8 test kit will set you back £99.
On its site, Assured Screening says its tests are ‘CE marked for in-vitro diagnostics’ and that its approved test kits can be used in the UK and Europe.
You can get same-day shipping if you place your order before 2pm and you must make sure you register your kit online.
Once you do the test, you can repackage your sample into the pre-paid returns bag and drop it off at a priority post box.
After your sample is received by the lab, you should get your results via email within 24 hours, but it could take longer.
You can find out more about the COVID-19 tests Assured Screening offers here.
Testing For All private PCR test - £69
Non-profit organisation Testing For All offers a swab test to check whether someone has COVID-19. This test is CE marked and costs £69.
Your test kit will be posted within one to two working days, and it takes 12 hours to be processed once the sample is received by the lab.
You can take this test at home, and it is suitable if you’re travelling to a country that requires a PCR test or for ‘test to release.’
Doctorcall private PCR test - £69
Medical group Doctorcall sells CE-marked swab test kits to check if you have COVID-19 for £69.
When you get your test kit, you complete the form, take the sample, and then use the postage-paid envelope to send it off to the laboratory via your nearest post box.
Doctorcall says you should get your results within three days, but it may take longer if demand is high.
Find out more about the COVID-19 tests Doctorcall offers here.
Lloyds Pharmacy private PCR test - £74
Unfortunately, if you’re under the age of 18, you can’t use this test – and you must request this test for yourself after having an online consultation. Each test is delivered for free and should include clear instructions.
Once you’ve done the test, you can send your sample back to the lab free of charge, but you have to use a Royal Mail priority post box.
You’ll get your results up to three days after you receive your sample processing notification, but it could take longer.
You can request a COVID-19 swab test kit from Lloyds Pharmacy here.
Boots private PCR test - £79
Boots offer an in-store PCR test for £79 and a ‘rapid’ test service where you can get your results in an hour. The latter service costs £30 and is only available in a limited number of stores (check the list here).
The ‘rapid’ service takes less than 10 minutes and includes taking a swab of your nose.
It's worth checking whether either test is accepted if you're planning to travel abroad.
Both tests are for children at least five years old and adults, but because they are in store they are obviously not for anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms.
The pharmacy chain advises those with coronavirus symptoms (or anyone in their household) not to book an appointment or come into the store.
The £79 in-store PCR test includes taking a swab from the back of your throat and nose, and it will take around 10 minutes.
This sample is then sent to a laboratory, and you’ll receive your results within 48 hours.
To book an appointment for either test, fill in the registration form and enter your payment details – you won’t pay until you arrive in the store for your appointment.
If you don’t have COVID-19, you’ll be able to download a results certificate confirming this.
The Private Harley Street Clinic private PCR test - from £95
At the Private Harley Street Clinic, you’ll have to pay £95 plus £15 for delivery for a swab test to complete at home, which you then send back by Royal Mail Special Delivery.
You can expect to receive your results between 24 and 72 hours after your test (or after the laboratory receives your sample).
Alternatively, you can get an antigen test from a medical professional to find out if you have the virus, but you’ll have to pay up to £350 for the privilege.
If you go into a clinic, the test will cost you at least £175 but this increases to £350 for a home visit (Central London only) although you can get a ‘fit to fly’ certificate for no extra charge.
The Private Harley Street Clinic says its tests are CE-marked. Check out the range of COVID-19 tests on offer from the Private Harley Street Clinic here.
Bupa private PCR test - £99
Once you’ve done the test, you can send your sample back using the pre-paid postage. You should get your results within 48 hours of your sample being received by the laboratory.
Unlike other providers, you can purchase this kit in advance, so you don’t need symptoms to buy it – but you will need to store the kit safely and use it within 12 months.
You can request a COVID-19 swab test kit from Bupa here.
*This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently.
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