Tesco shoppers can pick up at-home testing kits for various health conditions, including bowel cancer, in stores nationwide from today.
The supermarket has struck a first-of-its-kind deal with provider Newfoundland to stock self-diagnostic tests on its website and across more than 500 UK stores.
It comes amid mounting pressure on the NHS and record-long waiting times for doctors, with consumer demand growing for at-home self-diagnostic tools.
Newfoundland, which was launched during the pandemic to distribute Covid lateral flow tests, will be supplying Tesco with tests for Covid and flu, as well as a wider range of health kits.
It means shoppers can buy tests to check for iron and vitamin D deficiencies, general kidney health, thyroid function, bowel health and cancer, menopause and male fertility.
The deal marks the first time self-diagnostic test kits for widespread health conditions will be available with a major UK retailer. Newfoundland co-founder Frederick Manduca said: “We want to provide people with the opportunity to take their health into their own hands at an affordable price.
“With long wait times for doctors and hospital appointments and the very high price point of diagnostic lab tests, we’re offering rapid at home tests that arm people with vital knowledge that can alleviate pressure both on the NHS and patients themselves.”
The test kits, which will launch in Tesco shops from Monday (27 February), will cost between £8 and £12 each.
Mr Manduca told the PA news agency that it plans to widen the tests available through Tesco to cover prostate cancer, HIV and urinary tract infections, and is aiming to launch its at-home HIV testing kit this summer. He said the group is also in talks to sell its range of tests through several other retailers, as well as pharmacies, across the UK.
But the move has raised concerns among GPs over the rise of home testing, with medics fearing it could lead some people to misinterpret results and it may add extra workloads on over-stretched doctors.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Self-testing products, available over the counter without prescription, come with pros and cons.
“They can, of course, provide some peace of mind for patients – and for relatively minor conditions, with clear and easy to access treatment options, they may avoid the patient having to seek medical assistance.
“Without the appropriate aftercare services, patients may not know how to properly interpret results, or safely and appropriately act on them. In the case of more serious conditions, such as cancer, people may not have the appropriate support in place to deal with what could be very distressing news.
“Some tests are also quite general, not testing for a specific condition, carrying the risk that some of the results will be unimportant or of dubious value and could leave people unnecessarily confused and distressed.”
She added: “We know from experience, many patients make appointments with their GP for help analysing the results of at-home tests and to discuss the implications of them, in many cases not really needing medical assistance.
“This also takes up valuable GP time when we and our teams are working under considerable pressure, and patients who really need our care and services are struggling to access them.”
Mr Manduca stressed that Newfoundland’s tests are not designed to replace GPs, but to act as an initial screening tool “to understand one’s health”.
Newfoundland said it will be providing additional information on how to correctly use the tests via its app, as well as in leaflets provided in the kits, and also how to read the results. He added: “With the bowel health screening test, a positive result does not necessarily mean you have cancer, but that it could be an indicator and that it may be worth having a check up.”
He said that having an initial screening test can help with early detection that can be critical to the treatment of many diseases, such as prostate cancer in particular, adding: “Having a test that’s easy to do – and accessible as well – would make a huge difference to early detection, which really significantly increases the survival rate of this type of cancer.”
Mr Manduca set up Newfoundland with co-founder Michael Hodnett in 2021 and has already notched up sales of more than £150 million and sold around 91 million tests. The company has supplied major groups such as the NHS, online takeaway delivery firm Deliveroo, the Team GB British Olympic team, as well as several governments across the world.