Objectives: This study aimed to investigate public use of lateral flow tests (LFT) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests when experiencing key COVID-19 symptoms. Study design: In this study, data from two waves of a cross-sectional nationally representative online survey (data collected 1 and 2 June, and 14 and 15 June 2021; n = 3665 adults aged ≥18 years living in England or Scotland) were used.
Methods: We report data investigating which type of test, if any, the public think Government guidance asks people to use if they have COVID-19 symptoms. In people with key COVID-19 symptoms (high temperature / fever; new, continuous cough; loss of sense of smell; loss of taste), we also describe the uptake of testing, if any. Results: Ten percent of respondents thought Government guidance stated that they should take an LFT if symptomatic, whereas 18% of people thought that they should take a PCR test; 60% of people thought they should take both types of test (12% did not select either option). In people who were symptomatic, 32% reported taking a test to confirm whether they had COVID-19. Of these, 53% reported taking a PCR test and 44% reported taking an LFT.
Conclusions: Despite Government guidance stating that anyone with key COVID-19 symptoms should complete a PCR test, a significant percentage of the population use LFT tests when symptomatic. Communications should emphasise the superiority of, and need for, PCR tests in people with symptoms.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information: This work was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research programme. Surveys were commissioned and funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), with the authors providing advice on the question design and selection. L.S., R.A., and G.J.R. are supported by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response, a partnership between Public Health England, King's College London, and the University of East Anglia. R.A. is also supported by the NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, a partnership between Public Health England and the University of Bristol. HWWP receives funding from Public Health England and NHS England. NTF is partly funded by a grant from the UK Ministry of Defence. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care or the Ministry of Defence.
NIHR and DHSC had no role in analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the article. Preliminary results were made available to DHSC and the UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
All authors had financial support from NIHR for the submitted work. R.A. is an employee of Public Health England; HWWP receives additional salary support from Public Health England and NHS England; NTF is a participant of an independent group advising NHS Digital on the release of patient data. All authors are participants of the UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies or its subgroups. There are no other financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous 3 years and no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.
Open Access: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Royal Society for Public Health.
Citation: L.E. Smith, H.W.W. Potts, R. Amlȏt, N.T. Fear, S. Michie, G.J. Rubin, Do members of the public think they should use lateral flow tests (LFT) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests when they have COVID-19-like symptoms? The COVID-19 Rapid Survey of Adherence to Interventions and Responses study, Public Health, Volume 198, 2021, Pages 260-262, ISSN 0033-3506,
- Antigen testing
- Lateral flow devices