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Rapid testing for COVID-19 has become a cornerstone of the UK's fight against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While early testing for the virus was carried out in the lab (PCR tests), which took time, lateral flow test kits for COVID 19 have enabled patients to have their tests analysed in the "field", meaning that results are available much more quickly. Lateral flow COVID-19 tests, also known as lateral flow immunochromatographic assays or rapid tests, are simple, non-technical or specialist devices that are intended to detect the presence of a COVID-19 in a liquid sample without the need for specialized and costly equipment. They deliver results quickly and the test can be conducted outside of a clinical environment, making them more convenient and accessible.  At HandStations, we sell two different brands of COVID-19 lateral flow test kits—Healgen and Hughes Healthcare. These are two of the highest quality testing products available on the market and deliver results with the highest level of accuracy possible.  Rapid COVID-19 lateral flow testing kits provide you with a quick result in as little as 15 to 30 minutes and are incredibly easy to use, with no special training being required. These COVID antigen tests provide crucial testing capacity in areas where laboratory testing is not available such as in schools, and where free testing is no longer available, such as to businesses.  Each lateral flow test kit sold at HandStations comes with the test device, extraction buffer tube, buffer solution, sterile swab, and full instructions for use. 

Benefits of using a lateral flow covid test

One key benefit of rapid testing like this is faster decision making, which is crucial for a virus such as SARS-CoV-2 which spreads very quickly. Thanks to rapid COVID-19 antigen test kits, asymptomatic cases of the disease can be quickly identified, meaning that people go into self-isolation and stop spreading the virus sooner rather than later.

Covid Lateral Flow Test

Although COVID-19 antigen testing was only available through NHS COVID-19 test sites, a recent decision by the UK Government means that they can now be acquired by private individuals who can use the kits on themselves or other consenting individuals (i.e., employees). At HandStations, we stock a selection of Healgen testing kits that test for active infections (antigen tests) and previous infections (antibody tests).

Lateral flow test to buy

All rapid COVID-19 test kits sold by HandStations come with full, clear instructions and have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).

What's the difference between an antibody and antigen test?

It's important to know the difference between antibody and antigen tests. In short, antibody tests look for PREVIOUS infections while antigen tests look for ACTIVE/CURRENT infections. An antibody test looks for COVID-19 antibodies in a blood plasma sample. Antibodies are produced by the immune system when a pathogen (i.e., the SARS-CoV-2 virus) enters the body. The presence of antibodies therefore indicates that the virus has already been in the patient's body and thus they have previously been infected. On the other hand, antigen tests look for COVID-19 antigens. These are commonly found in the back of the throat when an infection has taken hold, which is why COVID testing is done via a nasal and throat swab. Antigens are foreign bodies that induce an immune response, so the presence of COVID-19 antigens indicates that there is an active infection in the patient.

Can I self-test using COVID-19 antigen test kits?

Yes, the government has given the green light for private individuals to test themselves with privately purchased COVID-19 lateral flow antigen tests. This means that antigen tests be used by any member of the public without any prior testing experience, in their own home or another community setting such as a place of work. If you do decide to self-test, it's vital to follow the instructions that are included with your testing kit. Doing so ensures that you carry out the test correctly, avoid causing yourself harm, and end up with an accurate and reliable result, which keeps other people safe. The last thing you want is a false negative.

Are lateral flow tests accurate?

Lateral flow COVID-19 tests are not as sensitive as PCR tests; they are a suitable and convenient alternative way for people to self-test and detect undiagnosed asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. This means that they are not as accurate as clinical PCR tests. However, they are a good indicator and it’s good practice to regularly self-test just in case of asymptomatic infection. 

What should I do if my result is positive for Covid-19?

If your test result is positive, this means that it's likely that you had COVID-19 when the test was done. You must immediately self-isolate and keep self-isolating until you're no longer infectious (minimum 10 days). Anyone you live with must also self-isolate.

What should I do if my Covid test result is negative?

A negative test result means that the test didn't find any signs of a COVID-19 infection. It's not typically necessary to isolate if you've had a negative result, but this depends if anyone you live or have come into contact with has had a positive test result. You should continue to keep following current government guidance such as social distancing and wearing masks.

What should I do if my result is void?

A void/inconclusive test result means that it was not possible for your test to say whether or not you had COVID-19 when the test was carried out. This usually happens when a test isn't completed properly. If this happens, you should carry out another test as soon as possible.

Should I use an antigen test if I have symptoms?

No---if you've got COVID-19 symptoms you must immediately self-isolate and contact NHS 119. They will be able to advise you on how to get tested.

What will my result look like?

Interpreting your COVID-19 lateral flow antigen test is easy with both the Healgen and Hughes Healthcare test kits. Around 15 to 30 minutes after taking the test, one of the following results will be displayed in the testing cassette window: POSITIVE: If both the C (control) and T (test) lines show a red line, the result is positive. This is the case even if the line is very faint.  NEGATIVE: If the C line shows a red line but there is no red line on the T line, the result is negative.  INVALID: If there is no red line next to C, the test result is invalid. This is the case even if there is a red line next to T. If you get an invalid result, it is important to take a fresh test. 

How should I store COVID-19 antigen tests?

Your testing kits can be stored at room temperature. They can also be stored in the fridge between two and 30 degrees Celsius. Testing kits cannot be frozen and they should be allowed to return to room temperature before use. While in storage, individual testing kits should remain sealed and not used beyond their expiration date.

How accurate are tests?

This depends on the test. Our Hughes Healthcare Rapid Antigen Test is the most accurate one we sell with a sensitivity of 97.1% and a specificity of 99.5%.  Sensitivity relates to the false-negative rate and is displayed as a percentage. This means that out of 100 positive patients, the test detects 97 of them. In other words, it delivers three false negatives (i.e., where somebody is positive, but the test fails to detect the positive case).  Specificity relates to the false positive rate and is again displayed as a percentage. This means that out of 100 negative patients, the test detects this correctly 99.5% of the time. In other words, it delivers false positives only 0.5% of the time (i.e., 1 in 200 people will get a false positive). 

Choosing between PCR test vs lateral flow test

As you are probably aware, the lateral flow test is one of two types of “mainstream” test that is currently used to detect COVID-19 cases, the other being the PCR test.  A PCR test is a very different type of test that detects the coronavirus’ RNA. These tests are normally carried out in a clinical environment using a swab of the nose and throat before being sent to a laboratory for analysis. PCR tests are highly accurate and can detect very tiny amounts of RNA, meaning that they are highly sensitive and consequently are best used when a current infection is suspected.  Patients that are positive for COVID-19 usually start to show a positive PCR test result a day or two before the onset of symptoms and will continue to test positive for some time afterwards. This means that PCR testing is most suitable for people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19. Anybody with COVID-19 symptoms should contact the NHS by calling 119 to arrange a PCR test.  In most other cases (except for when you’re travelling to a country that requires a negative PCR test, for instance) a lateral flow test is the most suitable option and is the go-to standard for asymptomatic testing. If you test positive by using a lateral flow device, you should call NHS 119 to arrange a confirmatory PCR test. 

How to use a lateral flow test

Taking a rapid flow test is very simple, especially if you use a device such as the Hughes Healthcare Rapid Antigen Test which doesn’t require the swab to be inserted far into the nostril. 

Before taking the test:

Taking the swab (nose only):

Taking the swab (throat and nose):

Completing the test:

Where can I buy lateral flow tests?

At HandStations, we stock a wide range of COVID-19 lateral flow test kits. This includes the Hughes Healthcare Rapid Antigen Test Kit (considered the “gold standard” in COVID-19 lateral flow testing), Flowflex Covid Test and the Healgen rapid covid-19 antigen self-test. These can be used in both private and commercial settings to identify asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. Both test kits are approved for public use by both the UK government and Public Health England. Each testing kit contains everything that is needed to carry out the test, including clear instructions. Results are available in just 15 minutes, providing quick and clear testing so that decisive action can be taken.

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