Lateral flow testing - July 2021

An update to our advice on the use of lateral flow testing.

A close up picture of someone's hand when they are performing a lateral flow test.

Photo: Shutterstock

In previous communications regarding lateral flow testing (LFT), we have encouraged you to make use of them as part of ensuring your and your fellow volunteers safety.

By asking our volunteers and staff members to continue to test themselves at home, we hope to be able to identify those who are carrying the virus but are not displaying symptoms. This testing is an addition to our current safety practices, not as a replacement; you should still follow the safety guidelines in place when attending any of our sites.

Who should take the test?

While taking the test is not mandatory, we strongly encourage everyone volunteering or working for the RNLI at any of our sites to test themselves regularly – especially those who move between multiple sites. This is both for your own peace of mind, and to reassure the people you volunteer or work with that you are taking their safety seriously as well.

This means anyone who is volunteering or working at one of our sites and coming into contact with other RNLI volunteers or staff members, or members of the public. This could be in one of our shops or visitor centres, any of our buildings in Poole, a local support centre, a lifeboat station or a beach lifeguard unit.

How to get the test

In the UK (not the Republic of Ireland), LFT kits are available to everyone for free. 

Anyone using these tests will be expected to follow the process outlined below based on your results. 

How does it work?

For site essential volunteers and workers where the tests are available, we encourage you to take the test twice a week, in addition to the safety measures already in place.

For those of you attending one of our sites on an ad hoc basis, if the test is available to you, you should take it less than 24 hours before attending site. And as far as possible minimise contact outside of your household to reduce the risk of infection between taking the test and coming to site.

New self-isolation process: July 2021

On 19 July 2021, we introduced a new process around self-isolating and lateral flow testing for RNLI close contacts of someone who has to self-isolate. Find out more and download the process guidance from the coronavirus page on the Volunteer Zone.

What to do based on your test results

The results will mean:

Negative LFT: you can go to your RNLI site as usual.

Invalid LFT: you need to repeat the test. If it comes back invalid a second time, you will need to treat the result as positive and follow the steps below.

Positive LFT: you must:

  • stay at home and book a PCR test
  • self-isolate until you receive the PCR test results
  • contact the Central Operations and Information Room (COIR) to report a positive LFT result.

Negative PCR: you can return to normal duties and let the COIR know that you no longer need to self-isolate.

Positive PCR: you must:

  • self-isolate according to your government’s guidelines
  • contact the COIR to report a positive PCR result.

You can read more about self-isolating and reporting on the coronavirus page on Volunteer Zone.

College testing

We are running a four-week trial, whereby anyone coming to the College for training will be asked to take the LFT before they come to the College, and provide evidence that the test result is negative. Testing kits will be sent out to all attendees in advance of them travelling to Poole with more information about the trial. This trial will help to provide an additional assurance for courses where social distancing and the ability to wear PPE is not possible (for example capsize training). It will also, hopefully, mean that no-one should test positive while at the College and be required to self-isolate there for a number of days.

Frequently asked questions

Why are you encouraging LFT now?

With government restrictions easing, and more people are starting to access our sites – it makes sense to add an extra level of security to our safety procedures. And with the UK governments providing test kits for free, this can be achieved with minimal additional costs and resources.

Do I have to take the test?

Taking the test is not mandatory, but we strongly encourage you to take it if you are attending an RNLI site.

Do I still need to take the test if I’ve been vaccinated?

It’s not mandatory, but we would encourage everyone to take the test before coming to site, whether or not you’ve been vaccinated.

I recently tested positive via a PCR test and had to self-isolate. Now that I’m out of self-isolation and can return to my RNLI activities do I still need to take the LFT twice a week?

You shouldn’t take an LFT for 90 days after a positive PCR test result. This is because the LFT will come up positive during that time. You should follow the safety guidelines on site, and after 90 days resume LFT.

However, if you develop symptoms of Covid-19 during that three-month period, you should take a test, as you may not be fully immune to all variants.

I recently had the vaccine - will this affect the outcome of the LFT?

No it shouldn't affect the result. Take the test as you would normally do and follow the processes advised depending on the outcome.

As a volunteer manager, can I make it mandatory for my team to take the test?

No – as above, taking the test is not mandatory. However, you can encourage your team to take the test and outline the additional reassurance it can give to the people they will be coming into contact with.

How can I get hold of the test?

Do I have to tell my manager if I take the test?

Only if your result is positive or invalid twice as outlined above and you have to self-isolate and take a PCR test. If you have to self-isolate you must also inform the COIR. You can find out more about self-isolating and reporting on the coronavirus page on the Volunteer Zone.

Taking an LFT is an additional layer to our Covid-19 safety measures; by telling your manager that you have tested negative you are providing reassurance that you are doing everything possible to keep yourself and your teammates safe.

Do I have to share the results of my test with my team?

No, however if your result is positive or invalid twice and you have to self-isolate you should inform your manager and the COIR. You can find out more about self-isolating and reporting on the coronavirus page on the Volunteer Zone.

However, by telling your team that you have tested negative, and by following the Covid-19 safety measures in place, you are providing reassurance that you are doing everything possible to keep yourself and your teammates safe.

I’ve taken the test but my colleague hasn’t – I don’t feel safe volunteering with them not knowing if they might be positive. What can I do?

Taking an LFT is adding an additional layer to our Covid-19 safety measures, it is not a replacement. Therefore everyone, whether they have taken an LFT or not, should continue to follow the guidelines that are in place for the site you are visiting, including social distancing.

What will you do with my information?

Information provided to the COIR regarding self-isolation or a positive test result is used for tracking who you may have come into contact with and is retained for our records in line with current data protection policies. For specific information about this, please email safety@rnli.org.uk.

Information about negative test results is not retained.

Can I still do my usual activities between taking the test and coming to site?

Yes, however please bear in mind that any contact you have with people in between taking the test and coming to site may put you at risk of becoming infected. Therefore, as far as possible, you should minimise contact outside of your household to reduce the risk of infection between taking the test and coming to site.

If someone I’ve been in contact with tests positive, do I have to self-isolate?

If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive using a PCR test, we have a process in place as of 19 July 2021 for you to take lateral flow tests for seven days. This applies to anyone who can’t fulfil their RNLI activities from home.

There is more information about self-isolating and reporting on the coronavirus page on the Volunteer Zone and operational volunteers can also log in to Horizon with your RNLI email address and password.

If someone I’ve been in contact with tests positive, do I have to follow the seven day lateral flow process?

You don’t have to follow the process, however this would mean that you have to self-isolate, and stay away from all RNLI sites for 10 days.

I’m in the Republic of Ireland, do I have to follow the seven day lateral flow process if a close contact has to self-isolate?

There is a separate process for the Republic of Ireland as lateral flow tests aren’t widely used there. Please read more and download the guidance on the coronavirus page on the Volunteer Zone.

More information

There is more information about self-isolating and reporting on the coronavirus page on the Volunteer Zone. If you have any questions that aren't answered here, please email C19@rnli.org.uk.