Digital hospital start-up Medbelle has launched a sponsorship programme to provide Covid-19 home tests to key workers and people in need in the UK.

As well as private purchases, consumers can choose to ‘sponsor’ up to ten tests, which will be distributed to key workers and people in need by Medbelle. Recipients of the sponsored kits will not face any charge.

People who believe they or someone they live with are at increased risk, or who work in frontline jobs, can apply for a free test on Medbelle’s website. Applications will be assessed by a medical advisor and tests provided based on recipients’ level of need or risk.

The firm’s testing kits are being sold for £225, which the company said is to cover costs involved in their manufacture and distribution. Medbelle said it is not looking to make a profit on the kits, and has limited private purchases to two tests per person.

Tests can be posted via Royal Mail or be couriered around London for an additional fee.

Medbelle founder Leander de Laporte said: “We have seen that even our doctors have a hard time accessing Covid-19 tests, despite fighting on the frontline. To fight Covid-19 effectively, we need more tests to understand how the disease spreads and which measures we need to take.

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“We are not doing this to make a profit; we want to do our best to support the NHS in these difficult times; to expand testing capacity and thereby add critical resources where they are needed.”

The test uses a method of analysis approved and recommended by the World Health Organisation and currently used in the NHS, known as reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). This involves taking a swab from inside the mouth and nose and sending it to a lab where traces of the virus can be detected.

The lab used by Medbelle has applied for specific Covid-19 certification with the UK Accreditation Service and Public Health England.