COVID-19 Swab Test FAQs

Frequently asked questions about your COVID-19 swab testing kit.

I. Introduction

Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London are conducting this research on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), to help work out how much virus is circulating across the country including in people who do not have any symptoms.

This FAQ document answers questions in the first person ‘I’ but please substitute this with ‘my child’ where relevant. Similarly, responses are written out as ‘you’, please substitute this with ‘your child’ where relevant.

II. Research Background
What is this research about?
Who is doing this research?
How do you know my name and address?
Why have I been asked to take part?
What is a swab test?

III. Taking Part
Do I have to take part?
What do I have to do?
How do I register to take part and receive a test kit?
I don’t want to take part, can I opt out?
I don’t want to take part, what should I do with the kit?
Why have you sent this to my deceased relative?
I received a test kit, but this person does not live at this address. What do I do?

IV. Using the test kit
I’ve received the swab test kit. What do I do with it?
I am having trouble taking the test, can you help?
I haven’t got a booklet. What should I do?
Can someone help me take the swab?
Can someone else take the test instead of me?
I did the swab test wrong. Can you send me another swab test?
Can you send me another test for someone else in my household to do it?
I’ve injured myself or feel unwell – what should I do?

V. Sending the swab for analysis and next steps
How do I send the swab test for analysis?
How do I label the swab test?
How will the courier collect the test while keeping social distancing?
I accidently did someone else’s test and sent it back, what do I do?
Is there a cut-off date for taking the swab and sending the test back?
I have taken the swab but have not booked the courier, what should I do?
What will happen to the swab test once I’ve sent it?
Will I find out the results of the swab test?
How long will it take for me to get the results?
Can I enter my result into the NHS COVID-19 app?
My test result is positive, what does this mean?
My test result is negative, what does this mean?
My test result is inconclusive/invalid, what does this mean?

VI. Online survey
How do I complete the online survey?
Can I complete the online survey if I have not done the swab test?

VII. GDPR and Ethics
Is this research GDPR compliant?
What will happen with the information I provide?
Do you share my information with others?
What are my choices about how my information is used?
Where can I find out more about how my information is used?
Has this research received ethical approval?
How were people chosen to take part?
Are national data opt-outs applied to this survey?
Have you got access to my health data?
Who is information shared with and for what purpose?
Does this survey use Cookies or similar code?
What happens to the answers I give online?
Where will my personal data be held and processed?
What happens to my test?
How will Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London ensure my personal information is secure?
How long will Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London retain my personal data and identifiable responses?
How can I contact DHSC, Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London about this survey and/or my personal data?

II. Research Background

What is this research about?

Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London are conducting this research on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), to help the Government to measure the prevalence of COVID-19 in different areas of the country including people who do not have any symptoms.

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Who is doing this research?

Imperial College London is a leading university closely involved in the COVID-19 response and Ipsos MORI is an independent research organisation. Both are carrying out the study on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). You can find out more about Imperial College London at https://www.imperial.ac.uk/ , Ipsos MORI at https://www.ipsos-mori.com, and DHSC at https://www.gov.uk/dhsc.

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How do you know my name and address?

Your name was chosen at random from the NHS list of patients registered with a GP. Under the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018 NHS England are responsible for your data. For the data collected as part of this survey, Department of Health and Social Care will be a joint ‘Data Controller’ together with Imperial College London. Ipsos MORI will be a data processor acting on our behalf to carry out the survey.

Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London will keep your contact details confidential and use them to send out the test for this study if you register to take part. Neither organisation has been given any information about your health.

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Why have I been asked to take part?

You have been randomly selected to take part in this research to give a better understanding of the extent to which the virus that causes COVID-19 is present in the community.

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What is a swab test?

A swab test or ‘antigen’ test involves taking a swab of your nose and throat. We will provide full instructions with the kit. There is no obligation to take the test if you agree to be sent it.  The test is of a high clinical standard, can be self-administered, and takes only a few minutes to complete.  It may cause some mild short-lived discomfort. The test tells us whether you may currently have the COVID-19 virus, not whether you have had it in the past.  Results are not 100% conclusive so a negative result does not guarantee you do not have the virus.

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III. Taking Part

Do I have to take part?

Taking part is voluntary and you do not have to take part if you do not want to. If you do decide to take part, the results will help understand more about the prevalence of COVID-19 in different areas of the country.

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What do I have to do?

If you agree to take part, you will need to register online or via telephone if you do not have access to the internet by calling FREEPHONE helpline 0800 157 7818 and answering some questions about you. We will then send you a COVID-19 self-testing kit. The test involves taking a swab of your nose and throat. We will provide full instructions with the kit. There is no obligation to take the test if you agree to be sent it.

Once you have done the swab, the kit will be collected by courier and taken to a laboratory and we will inform you of the result of your test (showing whether or not the COVID-19 virus was detected on the sample you provided).

We would also like you to complete a short questionnaire as well as doing the swab test, which asks about you, including your health and any COVID-19 related symptoms you may have had.

The swab test results will be passed to Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London to link to the information in the questionnaire. All questionnaire information will be kept confidential by Ipsos MORI, and approved Imperial College London staff and researchers. Nobody will be able to identify you in any published results.

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How do I register to take part and receive a test kit?

You can register by going to www.reactstudy.org/antigenreg. If you do not have access to the internet you can register by telephoning our FREEPHONE helpline on 0800 157 7818.

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I don’t want to take part, can I opt out?

Yes.  Please telephone our FREEPHONE helpline on 0800 157 7818 or email UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com. When you contact us please provide your address or the eight-character serial on your letter.

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I don’t want to take part, what should I do with the kit?

Please complete the survey so we know why people are not able or willing to use the test kits.  Please then dispose of the test kit securely – do not pass it to anyone else, even if they feel unwell. You can dispose of the test kit in your standard rubbish, please just place it in the bag it came in and throw it away (you can recycle the flat pack box that came with the test).

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Why have you sent this to my deceased relative?

We sincerely apologise for sending the letter to your relative, and we are sorry for any distress or upset this may have caused. Names were chosen at random from the NHS list of patients registered with a GP in England and this may have happened because the records held for your relative are not up to date, or have not yet been changed. You can telephone our FREEPHONE helpline on 0800 157 7818 or email UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com with the address or eight character serial number on the letter to opt out of further correspondence for this research.

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I received a test kit, but this person does not live at this address. What do I do?

If you have received a test kit which is not addressed to you or someone in your household, please do not take the test but dispose of the test securely. You can dispose of the test kit in your standard rubbish, please just place it in the bag it came in and throw it away (you can recycle the flat pack box that came with the test).

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IV. Using the test kit

I’ve received the swab test kit. What do I do with it?

We are asking you to administer a “swab test” of the nose and throat. There should be a booklet included in the envelope with the test which we ask you to read carefully. The test can be self-administered and takes only a few minutes to complete. It may feel a little uncomfortable.

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I am having trouble taking the test, can you help?

If you are having trouble taking the test, please read the leaflet carefully and watch the video demonstration on How to take the self-swab test.  If after watching the video and reading the leaflet you have questions, please contact the helpline by calling 0800 157 7818 or email UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com.

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I haven’t got a booklet. What should I do?

If you haven’t got a booklet included with your test kit pack, please inform the helpline by calling 0800 157 7818 or email UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com with the address or eight character serial on the letter.

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Can someone help me take the swab test?

Yes, you can ask someone to help you. The instructions give full details about how to do this.

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Can someone else take the test instead of me?

It is important that the test is done by the person it was addressed to, so that we can ensure that we get accurate information on the prevalence of COVID-19. Please do not pass it on to anyone else in your household.

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I did the swab test wrong. Can you send me another swab test?

Unfortunately, we are not able to send you a replacement. Even if you do not think the test has worked, please still complete the online survey as it is still important that we understand how you found using it.

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Can you send me another test for someone else in my household to do it?

No.  For the study results to be accurate it is essential that only those individuals who are sent the tests do them.  Do not pass the test kit to anyone else, even if they feel unwell.

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I’ve injured myself or feel unwell – what should I do?

In the unlikely event you injure yourself or feel unwell, please seek medical attention.  Use the NHS 111 online service.  If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111.  For a medical emergency dial 999.

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V. Sending the swab for analysis and next steps

How do I send the swab test for analysis?

A free courier will come to collect the test from your home. You can book this service using the instructions on the instructions leaflet you received with your test kit.

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How do I label the swab test?

Please place one of the serial number labels provided on the vial which you put the swab inside, and one on the plastic biohazard bag. 

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How will the courier collect the test while keeping social distancing?

  • When the courier arrives, please provide them with your sealed return box following the government’s social distancing guidelines:
  • The courier will knock on the door and then move at least 2 meters away.
  • When they have moved away, open your door, place the packaged test kit outside your door, and close the door.
  • The courier will then collect the package and deliver it to a test laboratory.

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I accidentally did someone else’s test and sent it back, what do I do?

Please contact the helpline to let us know you have accidentally completed someone else’s test as it is important that tests are completed by the person they are sent to. You can contact the helpline on FREEPHONE 0800 157 7818 or email UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com.  You will still receive your results.

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Is there a cut-off date for taking the swab and sending the test back?

Please complete the test and online survey as soon as you can.

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I have taken the swab but have not booked the courier, what should I do?

You need to book the courier before completing your test. The courier must be booked by 4.30pm the previous day to ensure they pick up the next day. If you have taken the swab but have not booked the courier, please go online to book the courier as soon as possible. If they can come the next day, keep your swab in the fridge until then. The test may deteriorate and so it may not be possible to get a result, but if you can arrange a courier within a day it may still be OK. Please complete the online questionnaire to let us know when you took your swab test as it is important that we know the gap between the test being taken and the lab receiving the test kit. If you cannot get a courier within the next day or two, please dispose of your test kit.

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What will happen to the swab test once I’ve sent it?

The swab will be analysed in a lab and you will be informed of the result within one week of your swab test being collected. Once analysed, the test will show whether the virus that causes COVID-19 was detected. This will help measure the prevalence of COVID-19 including in people who do not have any symptoms.

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Will I find out the results of the swab test?

Yes, once the test is analysed in a laboratory, we will send the swab test results back to everyone who takes part. It is important that you continue to follow the current Government advice around social distancing, regardless of what the results of your test show. For the current Government guidance about COVID-19, please visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

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How long will it take for me to get the results?

Please allow up to one week for the results to come through but this may take a little longer. If it has been longer than 7 days and you have not received your results, please telephone our FREEPHONE helpline on 0800 157 7818 or email UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com with the address or eight character serial on the letter.

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Can I enter my result into the NHS COVID-19 app?

It is not yet possible to enter a positive result from this study into the NHS COVID-19 app.  This may change in the future, and if so, participants will be sent instructions on how to do this when they are sent their test result.  

If you receive a negative or inconclusive result, you do not need to enter your result in the NHS COVID-19 app, and your access code will not be accepted. 

You can download the NHS COVID-19 app to help control the spread of the virus and protect yourself and others by visiting https://covid19.nhs.uk. You can also find answers to common questions and more information about the app at this website.  

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My test result is positive, what does this mean?

This means you may have COVID-19. If you get a positive test result, you and your household must follow the Stay at Home guidance whether or not you have symptoms. For the current Government guidance about COVID-19, please visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. If you test positive for COVID-19 we will also pass your details to NHS Test and Trace so that they can contact you. For more information on NHS Test and Trace please visit www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works.

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My test result is negative, what does this mean?

This means the COVID-19 virus was not detected on your swab sample. If you or anyone in your household has or develops symptoms you must follow the Stay at Home guidance even if you have a negative test result. For the current Government guidance about COVID-19, please visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. A negative result is not 100% conclusive and you and your household should continue to observe social distancing guidance.

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My test result is inconclusive/invalid, what does this mean?

This means the test has not worked and it is not possible to give you a result. If you or anyone in your household has or develops symptoms you must follow the Stay at Home guidance even if you have an inconclusive test result. You must continue to follow current government guidance about COVID-19. For the current Government guidance please visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

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VI. Online survey

How do I complete the online survey?

If you already have your test kit, please go to www.reactstudy.org/antigentest to complete the online survey. If you have not yet registered to receive a test kit, please go to www.reactstudy.org/antigenreg to register. You will need your access code which can be found on your invitation letter or on the address label sheet provided with the test kit. Alternatively, we can help you complete it on the phone.

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Can I complete the online survey if I have not done the swab test?

Yes, if you have received a test kit, but do not want to do the swab test we are interested in hearing your views, so please do complete the survey. If you have not yet registered to receive a test kit, make sure you complete the registration survey at www.reactstudy.org/antigenreg.

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VII. GDPR and Ethics

Is this research GDPR compliant?

Yes.  Ipsos MORI is a member of the Market Research Society. All questionnaire information will be kept confidential by Ipsos MORI, and approved Imperial College London staff and researchers. Nobody will be able to identify you in any published results.

The GDPR includes a number of rights, although not all of these apply where the legal basis for processing is public task, including the right to erasure and data portability.

You have the right to request access to any personal data within the limited period that Ipsos MORI holds it, before January 2021 when it is deleted.

Providing responses to this survey is entirely voluntary and is done so with your consent.  You have the right to withdraw your consent to our processing of your personal data at any time before the data is processed for reporting in early November 2020.

We must generally respond to requests in relation to your rights within one month, although there are some exceptions to this. The DHSC Privacy Notice explains your rights and how to exercise them.

You have the right to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) or another data protection regulator, if you have concerns on how we have processed your personal data. You can find details about how to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/ or by sending an email to: casework@ico.org.uk

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What will happen with the information I provide?

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Imperial College London are joint data controllers for the processing of personal data for this survey, which means that they are responsible for ensuring that the processing complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You can access DHSC’s Privacy Notice here and Imperial’s privacy policy here.

Ipsos MORI is a data processor, acting on behalf of DHSC and Imperial College London. They will only keep your data in a way that can identify you for as long as is necessary to support the research project and findings. By January 2021 Ipsos MORI will delete your personal contact data from their systems.

If you consent to being contacted for future research, and/or for the results of this study being linked to other health information that the NHS holds about you, Imperial College London, may keep your data for up to 20 years in order to support this research. That includes the contact details you provide to Ipsos MORI.  If you have consented to data linkage, we may receive your contact details from the NHS and, if you have consented to be contacted for future studies we may use them to contact you.

If you agree to data linkage, your survey answers will NOT be provided to your healthcare provider.

Researchers who wish to access the data from this study and/or to contact participants about future research will have to apply to a data access committee composed of at least 3 of the study investigators and at least one public representative.

Legal Basis

We use personally-identifiable information collected in this study to conduct research to improve health, care and services.

The Department of Health and Social Care, who are the data controller for this study, have the following legal duty under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and are conducting this research in order to discharge that duty, to generate incidence and prevalence rates in relation to COVID-19. 

DUTY: Protection of public health Under section 11 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the Department of Health and Social Care has a statutory duty to protect ‘the public in England from disease or other dangers to health’ including conducting research ‘for advancing knowledge and understanding’

The legal bases for the majority of processing conducted by the Department of Health and Social Care is:

  • Article 6(1)(e) – processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller.

For the COVID-19 testing research study this means that the Department of Health and Social Care are not relying on consent as a basis for obtaining contact details or for processing the data provided voluntarily by those completing it, and they can use the personal data they hold about you for research with appropriate safeguards in place. For this study they have shared a limited amount of information with the research team at Ipsos MORI in order to invite a random selection of patients to take part in the testing research.

Health and Social Care research should serve the public interest, which means that we have to demonstrate that our research serves the interests of society as a whole. We do this by following the UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research.

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Do you share my information with others?

There is more information about how your personal data will be used and stored in the privacy policy: www.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/research-and-impact/groups/react-study/

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What are my choices about how my information is used?

You can stop taking part in the study at any time, without giving a reason, however once your data has been included with the rest of the study data and analysed, it is not possible to remove your specific data from the results.

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Where can I find out more about how my information is used?
You can find out more about how your information is used at www.hra.nhs.uk/information-about-patients, or by asking one of the Research Teams, by sending an email to UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com

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Has this research received ethical approval?

This study has received formal ethical approval from the South Central - Berkshire B Research Ethics Committee. In addition, Ipsos MORI adheres to the Market Research Society code of research ethics, and the patient details provided are not used for anything other than the purpose of this study.

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How were people chosen to take part?

Ipsos MORI is contacting you on behalf of DHSC. Names were chosen at random from the NHS list of patients registered with a GP in England. NHS Digital has shared a limited amount of your personal data so that Ipsos MORI can invite you to take part in this research. This data consists of:

  • Your name and address
  • Your email address
  • Your mobile number
  • Your NHS number
  • Your gender and month/year of birth

This information has come from the Personal Demographics Service, the national electronic database of all NHS patients registered with a GP. While patients can opt out of having their confidential patient information shared, this does not apply to the demographic information held on the Personal Demographics Service. There is more information on this in our privacy policy: ipsos.uk/covid-swab-privacy. You can find more information on the Personal Demographics Service here.

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Are national data opt-outs applied to this survey?

No. The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that the National Data Opt-out only applies when confidential patient information is being used for purposes other than care for the individual. Confidential patient information includes clinical data about the individual (such as any medical conditions, prescriptions or care received), and any information about the individual that has been accessed via the individual’s medical record. This survey only uses demographic data and contact details drawn from patient registration records to select and contact individuals to take part. This personal data is not classified as confidential patient information as no clinical information is used or accessed. As such, the National Data Opt-out does not apply.

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Have you got access to my health data?

No, absolutely not. Ipsos MORI has been given your NHS number, name, address, email address, phone number, month/year of birth, and gender. Ipsos MORI has not been given any information about your health.

Ipsos MORI is given your NHS number so that it can, as far as possible, avoid selecting people for more than one round of the study. Your contact details are used to contact you regarding the study.

Information about date of birth and gender will be used to make sure that the anonymised survey data matches the profile of the population as closely as possible.

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Who is information shared with and for what purpose?

Ipsos MORI and Imperial College are working with supplier organisations to assist us in running this COVID-19 testing research. If you are happy for us to send you a testing kit, we will need to disclose your personal data to these supplier organisations for that purpose. These supplier organisations are:

  • Formara and Adare: printing letters and despatching testing kits (name, month/year of birth and gender)
  • Royal Mail: distribution
  • Questback (online data collection)
  • Textlocal (to contact you by text about the study, including the results of your test) (mobile phone number)
  • The Delivery Group (couriers) (name and address)

These suppliers are approved and compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations. If you test positive for COVID-19 we will also pass your details to NHS Test and Trace so that they can contact you. For more information on NHS Test and Trace please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works.

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Does this survey use Cookies or similar code?

Some online surveys collect information through the use of 'cookies'. These are small files stored on your computer.  These files are used as sparingly as possible and only for quality control, validation and, more importantly, to prevent us sending you reminders for an online survey you have already completed. It is possible for you to delete 'cookies' or to prevent their use by adjusting the browser settings on your computer.

We also automatically capture information about your operating system, display settings and browser type in order to ensure that the survey questionnaire is delivered in a form suited to the software your computer is using. We do not capture any other information from your computer.

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What happens to the answers I give online?

Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London will keep all personal data collected for the survey and responses in strict confidence in accordance with the Privacy Policy.  You can find this at ipsos.uk/covid-swab-privacy.

All questionnaire information will be kept confidential by Ipsos MORI, and approved Imperial College London staff and researchers. Nobody will be able to identify you in any published results.

We will also ask if you are happy for Imperial College London to link your answers and the results of your swab test to your NHS record. If you agree to this, Imperial College London may also link your survey answers to other health information that the NHS holds about you both now and in the future using your NHS number. This linkage would be done by the NHS and returned to Imperial College London, which will retain data with postcodes appended but not hold names or addresses.

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Where will my personal data be held and processed?

All of your personal data used and collected for this survey will be stored by Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London in data centres and servers within the United Kingdom and EEA.

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What happens to my test?

The swab test needs processing within 72 hours, so will be picked up by courier and returned to a laboratory. It is important to keep the completed test cool, so please store it in your fridge until it is collected.

The laboratory will share the results of the test with Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London.

The results from the test will be sent to you by email and/or text message, if you have provided these contact details, on the same day that we receive the information from the laboratory. If we do not have email or mobile phone contact details for you, your results will be sent by first class post.

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How will Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London ensure my personal information is secure?

Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London take their information security responsibilities seriously and apply various precautions to ensure your information is protected from loss, theft or misuse.  Security precautions include appropriate physical security of offices and controlled and limited access to computer systems.

Ipsos MORI has regular internal and external audits of its information security controls and working practices and is accredited to the International Standard for Information Security, ISO 27001.

Similar processes are in place at Imperial College London where a database to carry out statistical analyses of the data at postcode level will be established in an ISO 27001 environment.

Imperial College London’s insurance statement

Imperial College London holds insurance policies which apply to this study. If you experience harm or injury as a result of taking part in this study, you will be eligible to claim compensation without having to prove that Imperial College is at fault. This does not affect your legal rights to seek compensation.

If you are harmed due to someone's negligence, then you may have grounds for a legal action. Regardless of this, if you wish to complain, or have any concerns about any aspect of the way you have been treated during the course of this study then you should immediately inform the Investigators on UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com. The normal National Health Service mechanisms are also available to you. If you are still not satisfied with the response, you may contact the Imperial College, Joint Research Compliance Office.

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How long will Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London retain my personal data and identifiable responses?

Ipsos MORI will only retain your data in a way that can identify you for as long as is necessary to support the research project and findings.  In practice, this means that once we have satisfactorily captured the data and transferred the database to Imperial College London, we will securely remove your personal, identifying data from our systems.

For this project Ipsos MORI will securely remove your personal data from our systems by January 2021.

Imperial College London will maintain its database for up to 20 years to allow it to undertake studies of possible long-term health outcomes.

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How can I contact DHSC, Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London about this survey and/or my personal data?

If you have any questions about the research, please contact our helpline by email on UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com or by phone on FREEPHONE 0800 157 7818.

For questions about our privacy notice, our compliance with data protection laws or information we hold about you, please contact:

DHSC:
Email:    data_protection@dhsc.gov.uk
Post:      Department of Health and Social Care
1st Floor North
39 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0EU

Ipsos MORI:
Email:    UK-Covid-swab-research@ipsos.com
Post:      COVID-19 home testing (20-057652)
Data Protection Officer, Compliance Department
Market and Opinion Research International Limited
3 Thomas More Square
London E1W 1YW
United Kingdom

Imperial College London:
Email:    dpo@imperial.ac.uk,
Post:      Data Protection Officer
Imperial College London
Exhibition Road
South Kensington
London
SW7 2BU

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