COVID-19 Virology/Serology Surveillance FAQs

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RCGP RSC COVID-19 Virology & Serology Surveillance FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find the protocol for this surveillance?
Please view full protocol at:
Is there reimbursement for general surveillance?

Yes. Practices will be paid for all valid and complete samples per patient.
Virology – patients need to meet the criteria for a self-swab (please view flowchart or information above). Coding into patient record (CMR) also needs to be correct and accurate.

If a self-swabbing kit is posted out to the patient this will be paid at £7.50.
Serology - Practices will be paid per patient for complete sample(s). Blood bottle should be labeled clearly with all demographic details (see information above), lab form should be complete with patient and practice details, blood bottle should be inserted correctly and safely into secondary tube, correct coding is entered into CMR.

For complete samples practices will be paid:

£5.50 for >18 years of age

£11 for 8-17 years of age

£30 for <8 years of age

When will we get paid?

At the end of the season, practices will be paid for complete samples that are coded correctly in CMR. If you are new to surveillance and we require further information from you, we will contact you closer to payment.

Where can I order kits?

How do I fill the order request form?

  1. Complete all fields
  2. If you are ordering materials for virology you will need to enter your PHE requestor code which can be found on your E4 Microbiology Request Form. If this is your first time placing an order, please write ‘first virology order’
  3. For serology orders: if you do not use BD vacutainers and are able to use blood bottles from your practice, please advise us of this so that BD vacutainers are excluded from the kits.

 Sometimes a certain kit is not available to order online. What do I do?

If a kit is temporarily not in stock you will not be able to place an order. Please check again the following day and submit your order when it becomes available.

DO NOT fill in a request for a different kit and add a note in the comments section. These orders will not be processed.

Virology specific

We would like to register to receive PHE lab results electronically through their portal? How do we organise this?

Please email your request to register and include your Practice name and address in the initial email. You will then be sent a registration form and instructions as to how to apply for an account.

Can we participate in general virological surveillance as well as Principle trial?


Can children be swabbed?

Children can be swabbed if parent/guardian is competent and confident in undertaking self-swab. Please use your professional judgement.

Can we add any symptomatic staff as temporary patients and self-swab?

Testing of NHS staff are available through self-referral and employer referral test booking routes.

We would greatly appreciate it if you could use the RCGP RSC self-swabbing kits only on registered patients at your RCGP RSC practice.

What is the criteria for a self-swab?

  • Triage identifies patient with ILI, LRTI* AND/OR symptoms consistent with COVID-19
  • Initial patient contact was up to and including 7 days after symptom onset
  • No active management in a healthcare setting is required
  • Patient will have no difficulty in understanding instructions and if self-swabbing for a minor, parent/guardian is competent and confident in undertaking self-swab

(Please refer to flow chart above.)

Do we post self-swabs out to patients or do we swab them ourselves?

Self-swabbing kits are to be posted to the patient’s home address by the practice if it cannot be collected by a well (asymptomatic) family or friend who is not living in the same household as the patient. These can also be distributed to the patient using local volunteer groups. The self-swab kit will include straight forward instructions for the patient to swab themselves.

If we are posting these out to patients, do we place them in the white bag and post them. Where do patients post them to? Is there an address/sticker in the swab box?

Prepaid envelopes have been included. Practice put the self-swabbing kits (which should have a completed E4 PHE Microbiology request form) into the plain white envelope and sends to the patient. The patient reads instructions, completes nasal swab, follows instructions to then pack into the prepaid envelope and sends to PHE Lab.

Serology specific

Is there an age range for general serological surveillance?

At present, we would like more samples from children and adults <45 years old. It would be greatly beneficial if you could send samples from these age categories.

We do not have sticky labels for blood bottles. Can these be hand written?

Yes, but please use clear, block letters to ensure hand writing is legible. Please include all relevant demographic details: practice name, NHS number, DOB, sex, and sample collection date.

Staff members would like to donate a tube of blood for the serology testing. Can we temporarily registered them in order to do this?

Unfortunately we require serology samples from patients who are registered at the RCGP RSC practice.

We have had patients attending for face to face appointments, volunteer for serology. Is this OK?

If the patient is registered with the RCGP RSC practice, has read the patient information sheet and has given verbal consent, you are able to collect a sample from them.

Why will serology results not be sent back to the practice or patient?

PHE are undertaking population surveillance programmes, which are being supported by the RCGP RSC network by testing blood samples for the presence of antibodies to COVID-19 to understand what proportion of the population have had the virus, the rate of infection, and the extent of spread of the infection across the country. This information is important to assess the impact of measures taken to contain the virus, to inform future actions, and to develop new tests and treatments.

Whilst a positive antibody test will tell you whether you’ve previously been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, there isn’t good enough evidence yet to suggest that those who have produced antibodies are protected and how long any protection may last. If you receive a positive antibody result it does not mean that you’re immune, or that you cannot still potentially pass on the virus to others. It also does not mean that you can ignore social distancing measures.

We appreciate that patients who are already having their blood taken would want to know whether they have been infected with COVID-19. However the samples used for surveillance by PHE are not being used to provide individual reports to patients. Whilst patients can request a blood test for antibody testing, this does not preclude the provision of an additional blood sample for PHE surveillance and we continue to encourage patients to participate in this important surveillance programme.

What do I code when a blood sample is taken for general or convalescence serology?

Please code Save sample for serum serology (SNOMED CT ID: 509571000000108) in patient record (CMR).

ID Sample serology for practices which do not have the above description.

What should be in my kits?

See info above with attached photographs.

We do not use BD vacutainers. We use S-Monovette/another system.

If BD vacutainers are not suitable for use in your practice, please make a note of this on your online order form under ‘comments’.

You may use monovette bottles however, you must not use red topped Monovettes as these are for EDTA bloods and are not suitable. Make sure that the diameter of the bottle is less than or equal to 17mm and is not too narrow.