If you are travelling within the UK and test positive for COVID-19, contact NHS 111.
In some areas, you can refer yourself for treatment. If this applies to you, make sure you have the following information to hand when you contact a COVID-19 Medicines Delivery Unit (CMDU) or a similar service:
- date you tested positive
- date your symptoms started
- current address (including where you are staying when away from home)
- contactable phone number
- your current medical conditions
- your current medications
Although you do not have to register your positive test (online or by 119) to access treatments (see below), we still recommend you do this because it will mean your test result is visible to the NHS against your NHS number.
Please note that normal prescription costs apply for COVID-19 treatment in England.
How to access COVID-19 treatments in Scotland
If you get symptoms of COVID-19, you should take a lateral flow test as soon as possible. If it is positive, you will need to log your positive test online or by calling 119.
You should then report your positive COVID result to your Health Board. You can find contact numbers for each Health Board here.
Whoever you speak to, tell them you have a weakened immune system, with a positive COVID-19 test, and that you think you are eligible for treatment. You could also get advice by calling 111, your hospital team or your GP.
How to access COVID-19 treatments in Wales
If you get symptoms of COVID-19, you should take a lateral flow test as soon as possible. If it’s positive, you will need to complete this form to access treatment: Covid-19 Antiviral Self-Referral Form (NHS111 Wales).
You should then be contacted by your Local Health Board within 48 hours. If you are eligible for treatment, they will tell you how to get it. This will depend on which treatment is suitable for you.
If you can’t complete the online form, call your GP or NHS111 and tell them you have COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive, believe you are in the highest risk group and are eligible for treatment.
For more information, read the Welsh Government’s information about covid treatments. The Welsh Medicines Advice Service also has information about COVID treatments and how to access them.
You can find contact numbers for each Local Health Board in Wales here.
How to access COVID-19 treatment in Northern Ireland
If you have a positive LFT test, you need to log your positive test online or by calling 119. This should trigger an automatic phone call from the NHS within 24 hours to ask about your symptoms and discuss the treatment.
We also would advise you that as soon as you get a positive lateral flow test result, you contact 111 or your local Trust to ask about getting the telephone assessment for treatment. You could also get advice by calling your hospital team or your GP.
Whoever you speak to, tell them you have a weakened immune system, with a positive COVID test, and that you think you are eligible for treatment.
Eligibility for access to COVID-19 treatments
A summary of the eligible health conditions is provided at www.nhs.uk/CoronavirusTreatments, with more detail provided in the Government’s updated Independent Advisory Group report.
If you have one of these health conditions, or are receiving other eligible medicines, you may have received a letter or email from the NHS. If you think you may be eligible for COVID-19 treatments, but haven’t received a letter, you can contact your specialist clinician or GP to discuss if you are in one of the highest risk groups.
If a specialist clinician or GP advises that you have one of the health conditions which makes you potentially eligible, then you should follow the advice on the NHS website to order lateral flow tests to keep at home.
Please note that the eligibility list is different to the list that identified people as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, or those advised to shield. It is also different to the list of conditions that determine eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines. You do not need to show a letter or email to access COVID-19 treatments.
Being on the eligibility list does not mean you will necessarily get COVID-19 treatments. There is a further triage system in place involving a medical professional who will assess your needs.
Tips for getting fast treatment for COVID-19
Make sure you have contact details for your hospital team’s out of hours service, in case you test positive at the weekend or any time outside their normal working hours.
Keep a list of your medical conditions and all your medications handy – this will help you during any telephone assessments for COVID-19 treatment.
If you are having medical care for any other health condition in addition to your immunodeficiency, speak to both your immunologists and your other specialists. Make sure they both know that you might need their input quickly if you get COVID-19 and need antiviral or antibody treatments.
If you have problems asking for COVID-19 treatment, contact your Integrated Health Board in England, your Health Board in Scotland, your Health Board in Wales or your Trust in Northern Ireland.
The treatments available are:
- Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) (antiviral, tablets)
- Sotrovimab (antibody, intravenous drip), if Paxlovid is unsuitable.
These medicines aim to stop COVID-19 becoming severe and to prevent hospitalisation or serious illness in those most at risk. They have been found to be safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with weakened immune systems. Which treatment you have (if any) will be based on a personal assessment with a qualified healthcare professional about the different benefits and risks.
Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir)
- antiviral treatment (made up of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir)
- taken as tablets at home
- can be used in people aged 18+
- 88-89% relative risk reduction of hospitalisation or death
- should be given within 5 days of covid symptoms starting, but this can be extended to 7 days if needed
Information leaflet about Paxlovid
Contraindications with Paxlovid
There are lots of health conditions and other medicines that can interact with Paxlovid. Your doctor should consider this with you before making a decision. The drugs include some cancer drugs, immunosuppressants, painkillers, drugs for infections, blood clot prevention drugs, hormonal contraceptives, and other medicines.
- may be used if Paxlovid is unsuitable
- antibody treatment
- given into a vein (intravenously). You will need to attend a medical clinic to have treatment
- can be used in people aged 12+ who weigh at least 40kg
- 79% relative risk reduction of hospitalisation or death
- should be given within 5 days of covid symptoms starting
Information leaflet about sotrovimab
The PANORAMIC trial
If you are not eligible for COVID-19 treatments, or you are turned down for treatment, the PANORAMIC trial allows for a wider group of people to gain access to anti-viral medications via a clinical trial. This is a UK-wide clinical study which aims to evaluate the efficacy of novel antiviral treatments for COVID-19 in the community.
PANORAMIC is open to everyone with ongoing symptoms of COVID-19 and a positive PCR or Lateral Flow test, regardless of vaccination status.
You can participate in your own home from anywhere in the UK. No face-to-face visits are required.
The eligibility requirements are:
- You are currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms beginning in the last 5 days.
- AND: You have had a positive PCR or Lateral Flow test for COVID-19
- AND: You are aged 50 or over, OR aged 18 or over with a LISTED pre-existing condition*. *This study is open to all people affected by primary and secondary immunodeficiency.
Visit Participant Information at PANORAMIC for more information.
Accessing lateral flow tests and reporting results
Accessing free lateral flow tests and reporting results in the UK
Make sure you keep a box of rapid lateral flow tests at home. Free testing is no longer available to the general public, but if you are eligible for covid treatments, you can still get free tests.
You can also use tests you buy from a pharmacy. The results of these will be accepted.
If you get COVID-19 symptoms, take a rapid lateral flow test as soon as possible. If it’s positive, follow the instructions for your country, or your local area if you live in England. If the test is negative, but you have COVID-19 symptoms, continue to take lateral flow tests daily.
Accessing free tests in England
From 6 November 2023, you should be able to pick up free rapid lateral flow tests from a local pharmacy. You will not be able to order tests online for by phone from 16 November.
When you visit your pharmacy, take a copy of a letter or email that shows you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatments – this is not essential but will help confirm that you should have free tests. Tests now come in boxes of 5. If you no longer have a copy of the letter confirming eligibility then contact you specialist health team for support.
A friend, relative or carer can collect tests for you, or you may be able to book a volunteer responder by calling 0808 196 3646. Anyone collecting free tests for you should take a letter or email confirming your eligibility for COVID treatments, plus these personal details:
- your condition or conditions
- your NHS number
- your full name
- your date of birth
- your address
We are hearing that some people are having difficulty getting free tests from a pharmacy. We are looking into this. In the meantime, it might be helpful trying a different pharmacy if the first one you try does not have free tests. You can show the pharmacist this fact sheet from Community Pharmacy England which explains who is at high risk from COVID-19 and therefore eligible for free lateral flow tests.
Accessing free tests in Scotland
From 6 November, NHS Scotland is setting up a new online service for eligible people to order free rapid lateral flow tests. The link is not yet available, but we will include it here when it is.
Until the end of November, you can still order free lateral flow tests from gov.uk or by calling 119.
Accessing free tests in Wales
In Wales, continue to order free lateral flow tests from gov.uk or by calling 119.
We will update this information if it changes.
Accessing free tests in Northern Ireland
According to NIDirect, you can no longer order tests online or by phone. The website says you may be able to get a free lateral flow test from a pharmacy, but we are waiting for clarification on this.
In the meantime, if you need tests, we advise that you ask for free tests at a pharmacy, ideally taking a letter or email that confirms your eligibility for COVID-19 treatments. See the advice for England above.