Antibody testing for PAs/carers

The COVID-19 antibody test is now available on the NHS free of charge to all staff in Tower Hamlets who work in social care, including personal assistants. This offer is not currently available to members of the wider population unless it is specifically requested by a GP. Private testing is available for a fee and can be found online.

If you have a personal assistant as part of your care and support provision and personal health budget, you can contact People Plus to arrange for antibody testing: phone 0330 123 1938 or email ilstowerhamlets@peopleplus.co.uk

If you are a social care employee, you can contact your employer to discuss antibody testing.

What is an antibody test?

  • Your body naturally produces antibodies in response to a disease or other thing it wants to fight, e.g. a poison in the blood. A positive COVID-19 antibody test can be interpreted as having been exposed to coronavirus at some point and having produced antibodies as a consequence. It is a way of trying to find out if someone has already been exposed to the disease.
  • Many people who have had the virus (confirmed by a positive antibody test) reported that they did not have any symptoms. So not everyone will know if they have the virus already.
  • But how you interpret, and act on the results, may vary from person to person. This page of information and FAQs can help you to understand more about antibody testing.

What does a positive result mean?

  • The result does not necessarily mean that you are immune, so you may still be at on-going risk of catching the virus and therefore be able to transmit it to others.
  • Everyone should still follow COVID-19 guidelines (inclusive of PPE guidelines when at work) irrespective of their antibody status.
  • COVID-19 is a new disease, and our understanding of the body’s immune response to it is limited.
  • We do not know, for example, how long an antibody response lasts, nor whether having antibodies means you can’t transmit the virus to others.
  • Our understanding of the virus will grow as new scientific evidence and studies emerge.
  • Antibody tests are also being used in national studies to understand what proportion of the population have already had the virus. Some people have also been prompted by a positive antibody test to give plasma to help others affected by COVID-19; this can be done by contacting NHS Blood and Transplant at https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/covid-19-research/plasma-programme/

Having the antibody test

The test requires a blood sample that will be taken by a Phlebotomist (someone qualified to take blood) and results are normally sent to the individual within five working days of the test being undertaken. These tests are available until the end of September and we recommend booking an appointment as soon as possible.

This offer is available through a booked appointment at any of the sites listed below:

  • The Royal London Hospital, Health and Well Being Centre, Whitechapel, E1 2AH
  • King George Hospital, Goodmayes, Ilford, IG3 8YB
  • Shrewsbury Road Health Centre, Shrewsbury Road, East Ham, E7 8QP
  • Appleby Health Centre, Appleby Road, Canning Town, E16 1LQ
  • Manor Park Health Centre, Church Road, Manor Park, E12 6AQ

Frequently asked questions

Q: If I test positive for antibodies, can I ignore current Infection Control, PPE guidelines or lockdown restrictions?

A: No

There is no evidence yet to suggest that those who have been proven to have had the virus are immune. You should continue to comply with all PPE guidelines, social distancing measures and other government guidelines. All infection prevention and control measures must continue to be in place irrespective of the presence of antibodies.

Q: If I have a positive test, am I protected against future infections with COVID-19?

A: We don’t know the answer to this yet. It remains uncertain whether individuals with antibodies are protected against reinfection with COVID-19.

The presence of antibodies indicates that your immune system has seen the virus and begun to fight it. For many diseases, the presence of antibodies indicates resistance to future infections or less severe disease if an infection does occur. Unfortunately, we cannot yet say whether this is true for COVID-19, as protection after initial infection has not yet been proven for COVID-19.

You should not reduce any infection control precautions if you have a positive antibody result.

Q: How will I be informed of the result?

A: The laboratories testing the sample will text you the result of the test. These results should be communicated to you within five working days from the date of test.

The current antibody-test we are using detects both past and current infection. If your result is positive, we will suggest that you talk to your employer about any requirement to have a follow up swab test to understand if you are currently infectious with COVID-19.

  1. If I have a positive antibody test, do I need to stay off work?

A: No.

If your antibody result is positive, and you have never experienced symptoms, we will also ask you to have a follow up swab test to understand if you are currently or recently infected with COVID-19. In this instance please ensure you consult your employer on next steps with immediate effect. We expect this will be for a relatively small number of staff who have a positive antibody test. If the swab test is positive you should talk to your employer about staying off work and self-isolating as per current guidelines.

It is important you continue to wear appropriate PPE at all times, irrespective of your antibody status, to protect yourself, your employer, and other people working with your employer.

Q: How will my information be used?

A: The anonymised results across the testing programme will provide information on the prevalence of COVID-19 in different regions of the country and help better understand how the disease spreads.

Q: Are there any risks to having the test?

A: There are some risks related to having a blood test, such as feeling dizzy and faint during and after the test, but nothing specific to this antibody test.

Risks can also include bruising at the site where the blood was taken.

Serious complications such as an infection at the site where blood was taken and phlebitis (swelling of the vein) are possible but generally extremely unlikely.

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