The Private Harley Street Clinic in London has launched a rapid antigen testing service that lets people take kits with them overseas for just £29. Jack Southan reports
With government restrictions easing for fully vaccinated travellers, the number of jet-setters heading overseas in recent weeks has increased dramatically. However, testing for Covid-19 pre-arrival in the UK is still mandatory for people who are not fully vaccinated and although it is simpler than it once was, there are still factors which make the whole process stressful.
It can be difficult knowing where to start when choosing the right company to supply your test kits. Which are recognised? Are they going to work correctly? Are they worth the money? Mistakes can be costly and result in missed flights and fines. But a number of private companies offer these pre-departure antigen tests for excellent value, making the process simple and cost effective when you travel.
Globetrender reviewed the £29 Rapid Antigen Testing Service (My Travel Test) from The Private Harley Street Clinic (PHSC), as well as its Day 2 PCR testing postal service on a recent trip to France.
The concept of PHSC’s My Travel Test is a compact antigen test purchased before travel, which can be easily transported and takes up very little room in your luggage. Antigen tests and certificates are available in France (and other European countries) at many clinics, but they must be booked in advance and can often be out of the way and take time out of your trip to attend.
The main draw of these tests are their convenience – they can be taken in the comfort of your hotel any time within 48 hours of your departure and are verified remotely by a clinic doctor.
The actual product is simple in design with clear step-by-step instructions and easily recognised testing items. From reading through to finishing, the whole process takes around 25 minutes. What differs from your normal NHS antigen testing is the addition of video verification, this allows for a health professional at the PHSC to certify that the test has been taken correctly.
You have to register your test online via a QR code which links you to either the PHSC website or its app, which in turn will allow you to start the video recording of your test. (Unlike some other products on the market, this does not require the scheduling of a live remote video consultation.)
We recommend using the app as we had some issues when recording our video on the website. You can re-record your video if you make a mistake, however, this seems obsolete considering you only get one shot at taking the actual test.
Once recording has started you must complete all normal stages of the test clearly and visibly – thankfully it just requires a nasal swab (no throat swab).
Testing complete, you may stop your video (which will then be sent off automatically for certification). After 15 minutes a photo of your test unit must be uploaded. If negative and all steps are deemed to have been completed correctly, you will receive a negative result certificate that will allow you to fly. This has to be shown at airport security so have it printed off.
The process of testing is a little nerve-racking as you only get one chance to do it right, but even with a few mishaps and some uncertainty with the video, the clinic deemed that the test was taken correctly. However, if you’re on a very tight schedule and can’t risk a mishap it might be worth packing two tests, and at £29 it isn’t much of a push.
If you require a Day 2, 5 or 8 PCR test upon return (everyone must take a Day 2 test regardless of their vaccination status), PHSC also supplies these tests for £95.
At time of writing these were required to be purchased before travel so as to be registered on the passenger locator form required for entry into the UK.
We found that these tests were not quite as straightforward, with surplus testing elements in the pack and instructions that didn’t match the items we had in our box. The testing itself was standard in format but not quite as clearly designed as the £29 antigen tests. We struggled to find the unique test codes required for our passenger locators forms, and had to email the clinic to get them.
A self postal service is used to return your completed tests, which is less convenient than some companies which work with courier collection, but overall the test did what it was supposed to do and we received our negative results after a few days. (I was annoyed that I had to pay for postage though.)
Overall, using the Private Harley Street Clinic was relatively stress-free and simple but the PCR test experience could have been more straightforward. The Rapid Antigen Testing Service was reasonably priced and fulfilled its purpose.