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My experience of paying for a PCR covid test in London

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Over the last couple of months a lot of readers have asked us for recommendations for a paid PCR covid test.

We have been offered chunky sums of money to promote a couple of providers. After all, 250 couples sent along by HfP at £150 each is a £75,000 windfall for the clinic involved. None of the offers were both price competitive and had good user feedback, however, so we let them go.

Coronavirus

This week my family had to get a test as we are heading off to Dubai for Christmas. If you fly direct to Dubai you can get a test on arrival for free, but we were booked on SWISS via Zurich. In any event, I didn’t like the idea of failing a test on arrival and having 14 days of ‘hospitality’ at the hands of the Dubai authorities.

The Regenerative Clinic

A friend recommend The Regenerative Clinic to me – website here.

The key benefits seemed to be:

  • these are serious people, as you can tell from the services they offer and the private hospitals they partner with – this is not a start-up aiming to cash in on covid testing
  • they have huge numbers of slots available (you will find that whatever provider is recommended by your airline, or Boots, has no slots for weeks on end) because they process people exceptionally quickly (EDIT: following publication of this article, all pre-Christmas slots were taken)
  • they have their own in-house lab, which meant that I was as certain as I could be that they would meet their promised turnaround time
  • the pricing was competitive – you can have a same-day test result (very few providers can do same-day PCR tests) for £225 or a next-day result for £150
  • they are in Central London – Thayer Street in Marylebone

Booking

You can book online, and American Express is accepted.

The problem is that you need to make separate bookings for each person in your family group. This is not an issue in itself EXCEPT that the website has cache issues and has problems when you try to make bookings back to back.

My wife, who I booked second, got a payment receipt but no confirmation letter. When I called up there was no record of her booking although the clinic quickly slotted her in. If you are booking for 2+ people, use a different browser, or private browsing, for each person.

On the day

We were booked in for 12.30 on Monday. When we arrived there was a 5-6 person queue. We were a little early but we joined the queue anyway and it turned out that they are not totally strict about when you arrive.

(My guess is that this one clinic is doing close to £100,000-worth of tests per day at the moment. Nice work if you can get it especially as there is no VAT.)

The Thayer Street unit is in a row of shops which means that it is not set up like a surgery. You walk in the door and there is a reception desk in front of you. To the right, behind a privacy curtain, is where the swabs are taken. You are not taken to a separate room.

Be aware that the form you are asked to sign does not ask for your passport number. If your destination country requires your passport number to be on the certificate, you need to write it onto the form somewhere and hope it gets added.

The general view of the three of us was that the test was done more professionally than the one we had in Jersey in August, and was therefore less painful and invasive.

We were back on the street within 10 minutes of walking through the door.

The results

We paid for the £150 ‘next day’ test.

Our tests were at 12.30 on Monday. At 14.40 on Tuesday I received three emails, each containing a PDF test certificate showing that we were all negative. The passport numbers had been correctly added to each certificate.

Conclusion

The Regenerative Clinic did what it promised, delivering test results in an appropriate format within the time frame quoted.

Having their own on-site lab is clearly a key part of why this works.

Many other providers simply offer a money-back guarantee if your test result is not back in time or, even worse, the swab turns out to have been taken incorrectly and cannot be processed. This is obviously not acceptable if you need to travel.

(I get a feeling, although I don’t know this for certain, that if my swab had been faulty I could have dashed back over to Marylebone and they would have taken another for immediate same-day processing.)

The clinic website is here.

For absolute clarity, we paid the full price for our tests and we have no commercial relationship with the clinic. Caveat emptor etc.

Comments (145)

  • Jan says:

    We had our PCR tests through a Test and Rest package at the Hilton Gatwick before flying out to Spain yesterday. These are saliva based tests, and total cost for a family room and four tests were £309 (£259 after Amex Gold cashback). Comfortable tests for a good price and quick turnaround. The admin was a pain though – we all had to register separate accounts, kids needed their own phone number etc.

  • Gavalar says:

    Less painful & invasive doesn’t mean more professional it just increases chances of a false negative due to inefficient swab technique – it should make you gag if done properly

    • John Gallagher says:

      If anyone has an expresstest booked at Gatwick you must arrive by vehicle.
      This certainly wasn’t the case when I booked 3 weeks ago, nor last week when my friend arrived on foot.
      FAQ no.27 confirms this on the expresstest.co.uk website

  • Jordan says:

    Question – Visiting Maldives and the resort I’ve booked has advised to also include the name and address testing laboratory amongst other details on the test certificate. I just wanted to check if this is on the certificate from Regenerative Clinic?

    Thanks.