Want to know when to use a Lateral Flow Test? Check you know!

Thank-you for bearing with us at this difficult time. We are aware that there is likely to be some confusion and misunderstanding about when you should use a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) (where you have a box of swabs and kits) and when you should use a PCR test (the one you order from the GOV.uk site or ringing 119)

Use a lateral flow test for when you have no symptoms of CV19 – it is intended to pick up possible cases that we might never otherwise have known about. (e.g. no symptoms or not been with someone infected). Remember- you can have COVID 19 with no symptoms at all but still transmit the virus.

If the LFT is positive, you will need a PCR test as well to confirm it.

Use a PCR test (not a LFT) if you have symptoms of CV19 and follow the current isolation advice.


  • Any test you use to find out if someone has an infection is never 100% perfect- i.e. it will always miss some that have the infection.
  • Because a perfect test doesn’t exist, you often have to decide how much to trust a negative result.
  • Lateral flow tests might miss people with CV19 if they are showing symptoms of the disease or they are likely to have it because of contact with someone else.
  • The more likely it is that someone has CV19 based on their symptoms or contact with others, the worse a LFT is at picking an infection up.
  • If you took someone with no symptoms and no known contact with an infected person and did a LFT- it does much better (i.e. you can generally trust a negative result most of the time)

This is why there is a difference in which type of test to use.

One last plea- please don’t decide for yourself if you think it is COVID or not- if you are developing any of the symptoms in the government advice, please get tested. No vaccine is completely effective but does hopefully reduce the chance of you becoming more unwell if you’re unlucky and pick up the infection despite being vaccinated.