We are proud to have supported the NHS by providing additional capacity for COVID-19 tests at cost price. We could do so due to underutilised private lab capacities. We have also provided contact details of our lab and others to the media. There are great news now: Our lab has told us that they will likely get enough orders from the NHS to fill all of their capacity next week. Therefore, we will not provide further tests from now on (Saturday, 4/4/2020, 10.00 am GMT+1) and focus on developing new services to help in the current situation. We will fulfil all orders that have already been placed and send out all tests that have been donated for critical workers or people in need.
If you are looking for private testing, we would like to recommend London Medical Laboratory who now provide testing for £149
Medbelle wants to support the UK healthcare system by increasing the number of COVID-19 tests available and ensuring there is better access to these tests to key healthcare workers as well as people in need. We are supplying these tests at cost, meaning we do not make a profit by providing them. Each test is £225.
These use proven RT-PCR testing to find if the virus itself is present in a sample or not. Other types of tests planned to hit the market soon test for antibodies.
Our Clinical Partners
We provide COVID-19 tests free of charge to our consultant surgeons should they believe testing is appropriate. We do this to aid them as they support the NHS during this healthcare challenge.
If you are a Medbelle partner, click the button below.
For Critical Service Providers
Tests are available at cost to organisations with employees at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. We hope these may limit or prevent prolonged self-isolation or alleviate anxiety related to limited testing supplies.
For Private Individuals and Those In Need
Tests are available to private individuals. The cost of a test can also be sponsored for a person in need. We request only those with symptoms of COVID-19 or those recently exposed to COVID-19 inquire about receiving a test.
We want to help
To fight COVID-19 effectively, we need more tests to understand how the disease spreads and which measures we need to take. We have seen that even our doctors have had a hard time accessing COVID-19 tests, despite fighting on the frontline.
We have invested a lot of time to ensure the test kits are made of materials which are not needed for the NHS (National Health Service) or are in short supply. We work with certified independent laboratories that are not currently working for the NHS. Any testing capacity that we are offering is that which would otherwise go unused at this critical time. Should the NHS announce plans to expand their testing into private laboratories, we will immediately cease or hold our offer.
The tests are offered without any profit for Medbelle at this time. We provide tests free of charge for our medical personnel. The additional testing capacity we currently have is offered at cost to the general public. If we experience demand exceeding what we can supply, we will work with medical advisers who will determine the priority of need based on medical grounds. This may lead to additional waiting times for those with a lower priority need. In the event that a medical adviser finds a patient unsuitable for testing for whatever reason then we will inform and reimburse that person(s) in full immediately.
In accordance with regulations, Public Health England and the patient's GP will be notified of the results of the test.
If you have questions, please email us. Due to a high volume of enquiries your patience is greatly appreciated. We will respond within one business day.
Frequently asked questions
How it works (shipping, test, time frames)
Order (test kits for personal use)
You can purchase up to two COVID-19 test kits per household per day for £225 per kit.
We will ask you to answer a few short questions about your occupation and health. In the event that we do not have enough test kits to supply your order, a medical adviser will make a decision about priority based on the available information. You are then asked for your contact details and credit card information if you wish to complete the transaction.
If your test kit(s) has already been dispatched we regret that we are unable to cancel your order or offer refunds as we are unable to return kits that have left the laboratory.
Delivery - if purchased before 11:30am on a working day (Monday to Friday), your test kit(s) will be sent the same day. Otherwise your kit(s) will be sent the next working day. Test kits are sent by Royal Mail first class and will take at least 2 days to arrive after being sent.
Return - Your kit will come with a prepaid envelope for Royal Mail special delivery. Returns can be done by posting the sample in a post box.
Taking the sample
The package contains easy to follow instructions but you are welcome to call us so we can walk you through the process over the phone.
The test is done using a simple self-swab of your mouth and nostrils (swab is provided). As the virus is present in the lining of the nose and mouth (the mucosa) no blood is needed for the sample. After doing the test, you label the swab and then seal it inside the pre-paid plastic shipping bag along with your completed paperwork. The sample should be kept as cold as possible until dispatch / pickup.
Dispatch / Pickup ( usually next business day with Royal Mail)
Your swab must be returned into a Royal Mail post box the same day you take the test or you risk the sample becoming degraded and unusable. (Our courier service is currently paused due to increased delivery times. We will be offering this service again starting on the 14th of April. Until then, the testing kits will be delivered via Royal Mail.)
If you are concerned you have COVID-19 or have been advised to self-isolate, do not leave the house. Leave your sample outside your door for the person to collect.
Please note - If you need to ask a friend or family member to post the package for you, you must ensure that you only take the sample on the day they are able to collect and post it for you.
In the lab
Your sample will arrive safely at the laboratory. The laboratory then aims to process (test) your sample the same day.
The laboratory test looks for the RNA (ribonucleic acid) of COVID-19. This method of testing is currently the best and most accurate way of detecting COVID-19.
When your results are ready you will receive an encrypted email with a code to access them. If your result is positive for COVID-19 you will also get a phone call from a healthcare adviser who will offer advice on what to do next.
We will continue to work on ways of ensuring a fast and secure test result.
The test will detect Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19. The laboratory will notify you and Public Health England (PHE) of your results. This is an important responsibility of the laboratory that exists to keep you and other people safe. Your results will help your healthcare team advise you on what the next steps should be for your treatment or if you need any medication.
It is very important that you contact 111 or your GP immediately for advice if your symptoms are severe. This is the same if your symptoms worsen while you are waiting for your results.
Why we do this
To fight Covid-19 effectively, we need more tests to understand how the disease spreads and which measures we need to take. We have seen that even our doctors have had a hard time accessing COVID-19 tests, despite fighting on the frontline.
The tests are offered without any profit for Medbelle at this time. We want to do our best to support the NHS in these difficult times; to expand testing capacity rather than taking critical resources from where they should be needed.
There are many medical laboratories in the UK and they all fulfil different roles. Most UK laboratories work with or for the NHS and many are now processing COVID-19 tests for them. Some laboratories work independently from the NHS and provide services to other clients - like pharmacology and scientific institutions, private hospitals and private patients. These laboratories are run and operated by professionals and are certified to the same standards as NHS laboratories, but exist outside of the NHS system.
The testing capacity (how many samples they can process) of a laboratory is only one part of the total testing capacity. In general, the testing capacity can be limited by the technology of the laboratory, or the supplies of testing material (i.e. swabs), the data processes (i.e. the need for unique identifier codes), logistics (delivery of the kits) processes (who is eligible for testing) and funding.
It is our understanding that it is not laboratory capacity or supplies that limits the NHS’s testing capacity, but rather the processing and logistics. Medbelle only works, and will continue to only work, with private laboratories that are independent to the NHS with the aim of making their testing capacity available to those who would like to be tested privately. If at any time the NHS indicates that these laboratories are needed, then we will immediately pause or stop our service.
The price is £225 for each COVID-19 test kit. We understand that for many people this is a lot of money. For this reason, we provide our service at cost price. Below our price is broken down for full transparency:
- Laboratory fee and test kit = £150
- Basic packaging, special packaging (for medical samples), shipment (both ways) and software fees = £50
- Medical adviser charge, data handling charge, further software fees and customer service costs = £25
The last cost (£25) is the only expense that is internal to Medbelle. All other charges are set by our suppliers. Please note that we do not add the cost for marketing, administration, overheads or anything other costs we have incurred during this process. We have worked hard to reduce the costs and therefore the price we charge for our test kits. We guarantee to continue to do this if and when the market changes. It is our view that while the costs are high now, we would prefer to make the test kits available at this price rather than delay and wait for a lower price. So if you need a test now and are able to afford it, then a lower price test that is available the week after has little value. We also offer the option to purchase an additional test(s) for those in need at the checkout.
If you feel that you need a test and are unable to afford it, we are organising tests free of charge where donated kits exist. You can register your interest for one of these kits here.
Can I trust this test? How does it compare against antibody tests?
The test we use: RT-PCR
The test we offer for COVID-19 is an RT-PCR test (polymerase chain reaction). This is the test method recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the prefered option for detecting SARS-CnV-2 (the Coronavirus). The test type is the same one that is applied by the NHS and other bodies.
The tests are run on a genesig PCR Instrument using the genesig-developed COVID-19 assay (2019-nCoV) reagents. The lab has been doing PCR testing for some years and it is an identical process as testing for any other virus or bacteria using the PCR method. The only difference is the reagents that are put in the instrument. The latest update (9/3/2020) shows 100% homology with all 262 published SARS-Cov-2 sequences on the GISAID EpiFlu database and the 52 sequences on the NCBI database, i.e. a high specificity of the test.
The test kit (genesig Real-Time PCR COVID-19 (CE)) is CE-IVD marked and intended for in vitro diagnostic use in Europe. The only manufactured item inside the box is the swab, which is CE marked. It does not need MHRA approval as it is not a medical device. MHRA approval is only for actual tests - i.e. if a device gives you a diagnosis in your home. Our boxes are simply sample-collection devices and the testing, diagnosis, follow-up etc is done in the laboratory.
The only risk for the accuracy of the test is how the swab of the nose and throat is performed. This is usually done by a doctor or a nurse but can also be done by yourself. To make sure this is not a problem, we have included detailed instructions in the test kit. Please reach out to us if you have any questions.
The laboratory test looks for the RNA (ribonucleic acid) of COVID-19. This method of testing is currently the best and most accurate way of detecting COVID-19. However, it also requires time in the lab and therefore comes at a price.
Other types of tests
Organisations around the world are working on finger-prick antibody tests ("serological test"). These tests will be available at a much lower cost (first estimates assume ~£40) and provide results within less than an hour but will only tell you if you have already developed antibodies against the virus. This will be great to test immunisation but will not replace a test to check whether you have Covid-19 in its early stages.
There is also progress on "antigen" tests which use antibodies to parts of the virus to detect whether there are viral proteins. They are supposed to be much quicker and cheaper but so far the test's "sensitivity" - a measure of its ability to detect true positives - is only 60%. They are unlikely to show a false positive, meaning that if a result is true it is most probably correct. However, the low sensitivity means they often do not detect the virus even if it is present.
How can I purchase tests for people in need?
Our main motivation is to help people in need. We receive requests for test kits from healthcare workers, parents of children with health needs, families or carers for older persons, as well as from other industries such as grocery store employees. Unfortunately, they may not qualify for testing under the current NHS guidance but may be concerned about the risk they pose to others or the implications of having to self-isolate. Purchasing additional test kit(s) at the checkout will allow us to provide tests directly to people in need. Thank you!
We also offer the option to purchase an additional test(s) for those in need at the checkout.
These can be purchased without buying a test yourself. To do this, please just enter "0" for the number of kits you would like to acquire yourself here.
How will Medbelle identify people in need?
If you feel that you need a test and are unable to afford it, we are organising tests free of charge if gifted kits are available. You can register your interest for one of these kits here.
In collaboration with a medical adviser, we have developed a scoring system which is based on information provided in the form about occupation, risk status and current symptoms. If multiple people score the same result, the beneficiaries will be selected randomly.
Does buying a test limit supply for others (or the NHS)?
The test we offer for COVID-19 is a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction). This is the test method recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the prefered option for detecting SARS-CnV-2 (the Coronavirus).
The samples are not processed in NHS laboratories and we, therefore, do not influence or reduce the test capacity of the NHS in any way. In future, should the NHS need our laboratory capacity or testing supplies, we would immediately pause or stop our service.
Is there a limit on Corona tests in the UK right now?
The number of tests that can be purchased or provided is limited due to several reasons. Obvious examples of this include laboratory capacity and test kit supplies. Others reasons may include:
- Logistics (including test kit distribution)
- Data handling (including patient-unique identifiers)
- Workforce capacity (including healthcare workers to assess patient need, interpret results and provide guidance)
- Funding (the cost of each test kit or medical staff to administer the test (if needed))
- Priorities (the NHS may choose or need to expand their testing capacity).
All these factors helped us decide that - at present - providing access to test kits which would otherwise not currently be used is contributing to reducing the spread of COVID-19.
What happens if there are too many orders?
If we are unable to fulfill an order within an appropriate time frame then a medical adviser will make a decision about order of priority. If Medbelle cannot fulfill your order, you will be informed as quickly as possible and given the choice:
- Full refund for the test kit(s) you ordered for yourself (please note that no refunds will be given for test kits purchased for those in need) - or:
- Wait for an agreed time for test kits to become available. If no test kits become available Medbelle will refund you for the test kit(s) you ordered for yourself.
Is the delivery safe?
The laboratory have assured us that once you have taken your test, the quality is good for up to 12 hours . However it will start to degrade after this time frame which means detection rates will start to drop significantly if the sample does not get to the lab promptly.To prevent this you must take your sample as close to when it will be collected as possible. Help preserve the sample by keeping it cool in the fridge before you send it if possible.All test kits are returned via royal mail special delivery (in a pre-paid envelope). Unfortunately our courier service is currently paused due to issues with increased delivery times. We will be offering this service again likely from the 14th of April.
Why should I test?
Please only enquire if you are showing symptoms or are worried about endangering yourself or others due to recent exposure to COVID-19.
The tests help to confirm whether you have COVID-19 or not, which will allow:
- critical workers to return to their jobs
- people to support their loved ones by either staying in quarantine or continuing to support them
- alleviating stress and anxiety due to the fear of not knowing
- policymakers and healthcare professionals to fight the disease more effectively
What are the certifications of the laboratory?
The laboratory we are working with is UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) certified.
Are they certified for their COVID-19 testing?
No, but at present no laboratory is yet. Certification has been applied for and we understand that early notification of likely approval has been given.
You can read more about the RT-PCR test above under "Can I trust this test?".
Who is Medbelle?
As the first digital hospital, Medbelle usually focuses on building a new standard for elective procedures, currently mostly in cosmetic and orthopaedic surgery. Since most private hospital capacity has been provided to the NHS, we currently only support patients with video consultations and information about when they can have surgery. It is our vision to create a patient experience we’d love to have ourselves and right now this means that we do what we can to support the UK healthcare system in the fight against COVID-19.
Medbelle works with highly reputable surgeons and hospitals across the UK and has its own medical team. To provide better COVID-19 testing, we are collaborating with a London-based laboratory and GP who have provided testing for a variety of viruses and diseases for a long time. If you want to support us or have information which might help us to improve our service, please reach out via email.