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COVID-19 in-house test kits are now easier to order

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  • Home trial packages can now be ordered over the phone by calling 119, without the need for internet access
  • NHS Test and tracking partnership with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) to improve the home testing service for people with visual impairments
  • New video call support service with specially trained NHS Test staff and staff tracks will help visually impaired people try at home

People who do not have internet access can now order PCR home testing kit by calling 119, without the need for an email address or any other digital application.

This means that people without internet access or digital services can order PCR tests to be used in their homes if they have symptoms. The home testing service is available to everyone in the UK with COVID-19 symptoms and can still be accessed through the online home testing portal.

In order to improve the accessibility of testing services, NHS Test and Trace has worked and sought feedback from a number of charities, including RNIB, Macular Society, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary.

The NHS Test and Trace has worked particularly closely with RNIB, undertaking trials with volunteers with different levels of vision quality to understand the changes that would have the most impact. Following the recommendations, new tools are being introduced for those ordering home testing equipment for the visually impaired, including:

  • Improved boxes that are easier to assemble for test returns
  • instructions in braille, audio (CD) and large print
  • A RNIB you can call to listen to a recorded version of the instructions

Moreover, the government is planning the spring launch of specialist video support Be My Eyes, an app that customers can download and offer clients with visual impairments direct video assistance where an assistant will act as their eyes. Assistants are staff specially trained for the NHS Test and staff trail.

The NHS Test and Trace Network of more than 850 test sites also has access to language translation services. Instructions for easy reading of tests at home are translated into Hindi, Bengali, Polish, Indian Punjabi, Pakistani Punjabi, Slovak, Somali, Urdu, Gujarati, Arabic, Mandarin and Chinese and are becoming available in hard copy and online.

Interim President of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said:

With more than 6 million PCR home tests performed, home testing has not simply improved comfort for many people who would have struggled to get to a test site, it has made testing more accessible for those defending, self-isolating or awaiting surgery hospital surgery.

Weve made further improvements in accessibility, including the introduction of new practical tools for the visually impaired and a non-digital journey of users to digital exclusions, where people can call 119 to order a test kit to record test samples and get results.

Minister of Health Lord Bethell said:

We were working with partners, such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind, to better understand the end-to-end user experience of breaking down all barriers to testing in our communities.

I encourage anyone with symptoms to be tested on one of the more than 850 test sites we have set up. Those who cannot reach a test site can order a home test kit online or, now, by calling 119.

Sarah Lambert, Head of Social Change at RNIB, tha:

RNIB started the campaign for a more accessible test in April last year and were pleased to be invited to work with the Department of Health and Social Welfare (DHSC), trying measures to improve it by May.

As a result of this work, it is good to see the launch of complete instructions in a range of formats, including braille, audio and large print, and new less obscure packaging. It is also welcome that people without an email address can now enter a test. We expect further changes in the coming months.

He was eager to work with the government to make sure future projects were built on approach from the start.

Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, CCO, Be My Eyes tha:

Be My Eyes video support provides the best possible troubleshooting experience for any product or service, and we can think of no better application for this platform than using it to do home tests COVID more accessible to people who are blind or partially sighted.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UK’s rapid work has seen us build the largest testing system, conducting more tests in total than any other major European country.

Hundreds of thousands of tests are processed every day, and more than 8.6 million people, including those who test positive and their close contacts, have been asked to self-isolate themselves thanks to the work of the NHS Test and Tracking. Almost anyone can have a test locally, as more than 850 test sites are in operation and the average distance traveled for a test is only 1.9 miles.

The NHS Test and Trace has also continued to provide some of the best return times for home test scores since starting service last May, with an average return time of 35 hours. We received more than 260,000 home testing kits during this reporting week, with the service ensuring that those required to take a COVID-19 test be able to enter one without visiting a testing center and meeting the requirement regardless of conditions current weather.

Case studies

Edward Bates, 30, from Winterton was a participant in one of the RNIB AND DHSC evidence for blind and visually impaired people and said:

It was really great to be part of the rehearsal to improve the home rehearsal opportunity. The digital version of the instructions seemed really useful to me as I was able to read them using my screen reading program.

I’m really glad these improvements are being made, so blind and visually impaired people are able to access a test whenever they need a test.

Bernie Warren, who has diabetic macular edema (DMO) had previously ordered a COVID-19 home PCR test with the help of her husband. Bernie used the new Be My Eyes service to order and use a home test and said:

I did it with my husband and I did it completely wrong. I also needed a lot of help from him. This test was an opportunity to do it myself, so I used Be My Eyes because then I knew I could do it independently and I wanted to do it independently. I did not want to rely on any other help from my family, and anyway they are all at work.

So, I called Be My Eyes to give me a hand and it was great, really good. It gave me the confidence to do it properly and safely. The test is a bit vague, but to help someone speak really, because then I knew I was doing well. I would not be confident to know that I was doing it the right way otherwise and would bother sending it.

What I was really worried about was the swab because I couldn’t see it at all. I could not see which end I should hold and that was the most rewarding part of the test. The person from Be My Eyes was so patient and explained things so well. I did not feel in a hurry and found it so helpful and would definitely recommend it.

NHS Testing and Tracking and Be My Eyes partner to improve your COVID home testing capability. Paralympic gold medalist in cycling, Lora Fachie, MBE was a member of the test group for the program and said:

The lady I connected with was fantastic just to guide me.

She just took the task and gave me clear instructions and calmed me down while I felt a little scared about the whole thing.

For those with vision loss, it can be challenging to understand and follow the self-test procedure without any help. Those who are blind or experience vision loss across the UK can soon call the NHS for visual assistance with taking the COVID test at home directly from Be My Eyes app.

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