Test results

Test results will be sent by text message and email from the NHS within 24-48 hours of samples reaching the lab.

For adults: If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted within 24 hours by a healthcare professional who will offer advice and support. You will also be contacted by email, text or phone by the NHS Test and Trace service.

For children: The named parents/guardians of children who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted within 24 hours by a healthcare professional who will offer advice and support. You will also be contacted by email, text or phone by the NHS Test and Trace service.

Positive

A positive result means you had COVID-19 when the test was done. You and everyone you live with must stay at home and self-isolate immediately. This includes not going to school or work.

If you had COVID-19 symptoms before or after you gave your sample, self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started.

If you've not had COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate for at least 10 days from when you provided your saliva sample.

Everyone you live with must also self-isolate for at least 10 days even if they received a negative test result – it can take this long for symptoms to appear. Read about what others must do.

You must also tell your school/college/university/employer about the positive test result to help keep other people safe.

You will be contacted within 24 hours of receiving a positive result by a healthcare professional who will offer you advice and support. The NHS Test and Trace service will also contact you to give you further advice and to ask you about other people you have been in contact with.

If you need medical help, visit 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111. If it is an emergency, call 999.

Please note that it is not necessary for you to organise another COVID-19 test through the NHS.

You can contact the customer services team if you have any other questions or concerns.

When to stop self-isolating

If you still have COVID-19 symptoms after your tenth day of self-isolating, continue to stay at home until you feel better.

You can stop self-isolating after 10 days if:

  • Your symptoms have improved other than cough or loss of taste or smell
  • You no longer have a high temperature

Note that cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste can last for weeks after the infection has gone but this does not mean you are still infectious. You may find the NHS guidance on how long to self-isolate useful.

Negative

A negative result means it’s very unlikely that you had COVID-19 at the time of the test. You can still get the virus in the future. Continue to follow government advice, including practising social distancing and hygiene measures.

If you develop symptoms: You must self-isolate until you feel better, even though your most recent test result was negative. Book online or call 119 to organise a test from the NHS. Everyone you live with must self-isolate while you wait for your results.

If someone you live with tests positive or has symptoms: Self-isolate for 10 days if someone you live with has COVID-19, even if your test result is negative.

Void/inconclusive

A void/inconclusive result means that it was not possible to process your sample. This is usually because there was not enough saliva for testing when it reached the lab. Please do another test on your next available testing day.

If someone you live with tests positive or develops symptoms

You must self-isolate if someone you live with either:

  • Has tested positive
  • Has symptoms and is waiting for their test results

You'll need to self-isolate even if your own test result was negative. Self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started, or from when they gave their throat or saliva sample if they’ve had no symptoms.

If you develop symptoms:

  • Continue to self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started
  • Book online or call 119 to organise a test from the NHS.
  • Follow the advice depending on your test result (if your result is negative you must still finish the original 10-day isolation period because you live with someone who tested positive)

Everyone else in your household should continue with their original 10-day self-isolation period even if they've had a negative test result and no symptoms.

You may want to refer to the NHS guidance on how to avoid spreading COVID-19 to people you live with.

What happens to your test results

Where possible, your or your child’s test results will be added to your/their medical record. Only your or your child’s GP and other authorised NHS staff, Public Health England, NHS Test and Trace staff and the local Health Protection Team can access your or your child’s test results. No-one else will be able to see your or your child’s personal test results apart from nominated senior leadership within your or your child’s school, college or university who will receive the result in confidence for the purpose of initiating contact tracing within the school or university to minimise the spread of COVID-19. You can view our full testing programme privacy notice.