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Review: ExpressTest Covid-19 testing at London St Pauls One New Change

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This is our review of the new ExpressTest testing facilities at One New Change, St Pauls.

We have previously reviewed the Gatwick drive-through and the Heathrow Terminal 5 location. This is our first review of a city-centre ExpressTest facility – there are further testing sites at Paddington station and Westfield Stratford.

ExpressTest has been in a big growth phase this summer and its latest location to open is the new walk-in centre at the One New Change shopping centre between Bank and St Pauls. It opened in early September.

ExpressTest offers a full suite of testing services at One New Change, including:

  • ‘Fit to Fly’ PCR testing
  • ‘Fit to Fly’ lateral flow (antigen) testing
  • Day 2 arrivals testing

I needed a PCR test to enter Dubai last week and the location of One New Change was ideal, just round the corner from the WeWork I was in. It is very convenient for anyone who has returned to the office around Bank, Mansion House and Cannon Street – you can just pop in and do a test on your lunch break.

ExpressTest charges £80 for a Fit to Fly PCR test at St Pauls One New Change, although they provided us with a test for free. It is slightly cheaper at £60 at both Heathrow and Gatwick.

One key attraction of doing a test in person (rather than an at-home delivery kit) is the turnaround time. The UAE requires that tests be conducted within 72 hours of departure. A cheaper at-home postal kit would probably have taken too long and would have depended on Royal Mail’s delivery times.

ExpressTest usually returns the result by 10pm the next day or – at the very most – 48 hours after testing.

St Pauls One New Change

Finding ExpressTest St Pauls One New Change

As this site is brand new the signage at One New Change hasn’t been updated yet, so it took a bit of a hunt to find. You can save yourself the hassle and head straight to the lower ground floor via these steps:

ExpressTest St Pauls One New Change stairs

You’ll immediately see the bright white and blue sign once you’re downstairs:

ExpressTest St Pauls One New Change storefront

You are greeted by someone with spare masks outside, in case you have forgotten yours. Inside, the testing site is very bright and clean – it looks extremely professional:

ExpressTest St Pauls One New Change check-in

I was surprised by the size of the facility. There are 16 booths. As this is a new location for ExpressTest things were still pretty quiet and I was the only person there at the time. Only a couple of members of staff were carrying out the swabs, so there is plenty of room for ExpressTest to ramp up and grow here.

ExpressTest St Pauls One New Change booths

As at other locations you have to show your booking QR code to the check-in desk, as well as your passport if doing a Fit to Fly test.

Once checked in you are escorted to one of the swab booths where a member of staff is waiting:

ExpressTest St Pauls One New Change swab

(There is a seat in the bottom right hand corner which you cannot see.)

For the PCR the ExpressTest team swab each side of your tonsils for 5 seconds, plus 10 seconds in a nostril of your choice.

And that’s it. I was in and out within 5 minutes. Once done, you can expect to receive your results via email by 10pm the next day, although the ExpressTest website does warn that it can take up to 48 hours.

Conclusion

This was my third ExpressTest experience and I have to say that the swabbing experience is by far the best I have had at any test facility – and a marked contrast to a test I did in Madrid which felt like it had bored into my brain.

All the staff are very gentle and conscious that doing the swab is not particularly pleasant – if you need a quick break they are happy to oblige. If you work in The City it will be a convenient choice.

You can book test slots on the ExpressTest website here.

Thanks to ExpressTest for letting us try out the new site.

Comments (47)

  • Loz says:

    I have to say I speak as I find. I have used express test 3 times now. First two times went down without a hitch. The last time however their website crashed on me during the final stage of the booking process and my card was charged erroneously a number of times without any booking being made. Their customer care service was SHOCKING in these circumstances. Numerous calls to their helpline and nobody wanted to know, much less help. In the end I disputed the charges with Amex who ultimately wiped them but buyer beware. It’s definitely in the never again category for us.

  • Blenz101 says:

    I found having my tonsils swabbed completely revolting.

    Fingers cross this test centre is huge failure and the routine testing of healthy, asymptomatic, vaccinated travellers rapidly becomes a thing of the past.

    Charging people more than cost of a short haul flight is an insult. We have a perfectly good network of existing pharmacies which could have been leveraged by the government to distribute (and supervise if needed) tests and compensate pharmacists reasonably.

    Hopefully the CMA will report sooner rather than later and perhaps suggest a price cap as many other counties have done. It’s supposed to be a public health measure not a chance for private companies to make huge profits.

    At £80 a pop it just further encourages some people to edit the PDF of a previous test test result or buy a negative certificate with the dates required if they aren’t tech savvy enough. It ultimately makes everyone safe but a guy with a printer at home in my old local pub is charging £5 a pop for a PDF and hard copy fit to fly certificate.

    • Yuff says:

      My thoughts too, if they are investing in clinics like this they must have some insight into where testing is heading over the next 12 months.
      Even at £60 it’s way too high and the fact they only guarantee results in 48 hrs isn’t good enough imo.

    • Zoe says:

      Going into the pocket of some Tory donor no doubt

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      In Italy it was €15 at my local pharmacy and I think the price is capped. The government here wanted to make tests affordable and accessible for everyone. I was worried that the results would only be in Italian but they’re also in English so can be used for flying to the UK.

      Other places cost more. Currently €40 at Bologna airport which is still cheaper than similar UK based offerings but most people should be able to get one from a pharmacy (at the beginning it was more difficult as many didn’t have online booking set up)

      • Rui N. says:

        You think the price is capped at €15, but someone else is charging €40?!
        In the UK rapid tests are free, so there is no really cheaper than that.

        • blenz101 says:

          Except that NHS tests are explicitly not valid for travel. You need a private test to get the required paperwork which generally needs to include your passport number.

          And yes prices can vary if there is a service, e.g. the price is capped at 50AED/10GBP in the UAE but if you want someone to come to your home/hotel and do it they can charge a bit more on top – perhaps 120AED total. Doesn’t stop access to the tests at the capped price though.

          Using gov.uk advertise test ranging from 20GBP to 200GBP shows how broken the UK system is.

          • meta says:

            This isn’t going away for another 4-5 years until the majority of world population has been vaccinated and that’s a big if given the resistance to vaccination in large parts of the world. Remember these are not tests to go to the UK, this is a test to travel from UK to other countries. You can abolish all testing in the UK, but 90% of countries will still require some sort of testing and these companies know it.

          • Lady London says:

            “how broken the UK system is”

            …and not just for tests

          • blenz101 says:

            My issue is with the extortionate mark-up surrounding the tests and setting up plush new sites paid for by those taking the tests when infrastructure already exists – there is a Boots or equivalent in every town and city in the land.

            If you do need a test prior to travel then you have to take it in the UK and get ripped off. Prices in more rational counties have already been quoted in this thread.

            Plenty of employers are bringing in policies where the unvaccinated must have tests to come to the office so I assume they will be relying on that revenue stream soon enough.

            I think the 90% figure is totally off. I suspect those left inside the EU will happily be continuing to enjoy their free movement for the next 5 years without any such nonsense.

          • meta says:

            In Finland you have to pay 300 euros if you are non-resident and need an English certificate. In some countries, you have to pay for PCR test on arrival at $150+. This isn’t only happening in the UK. Companies will always profit and governments will turn the blind eye because as we all know they like to profit too.

          • meta says:

            And I am not talking about EU. EU is only 27 countries in the world…

          • blenz101 says:

            Well at 27 countries the EU is already 14% so good luck with you 90% figure.

            I see your 300EUR in Finland for non-nationals and translated certificates with $8 testing in Mumbai….

        • Save East Coast Rewards says:

          I meant *pharmacy* tests in the Emilia Romagna region are capped. Nothing to stop private providers offering more expensive services that offer a value add (in the case of the airport tests you get a faster turn around time)

          • meta says:

            @blenz101 Even EU countries require testing for a lot of non-EU arrivals, so yes, testing is to stay for quite a while. Especially given that Russian and Chinese vaccines are prevalent in huge parts of the world and are not uniformly recognised. It’s going to be a slow process although I wish it wasn’t.

  • Tobias says:

    Which is the most “cost effective” day 2 test on Govt list?

    • Phillium says:

      The one you make up yourself by using the letters RANDX and 7 random digits. Not that I’d advocate that, of course, since the system is designed to flawlessly protect us…
      Failing that, paying £43 for the same code from Randox using any of the airline codes like Easyjet2021 etc is probably as cheap/easy as they get.

  • Gezza says:

    At £80 a pop this is another rip off. Maybe you can afford it in the City?
    I have flown 3 times in past 6 weeks and used Randox Health for a pre flight PCR and also a Day 2 arrival test. £48 each test. Each time result was back on my phone in 24 hours. They have dedicated postal boxes everywhere, post by 5pm and get result next day. The sooner these charges are capped the better.

    • Rob says:

      If you’re getting it expensed, why bother? Walk down the street and get it done in person with some come-back if the result isn’t there.

      • Memesweeper says:

        Even when paying with my own money I’d like an in person test with the quickest possible result. Much less to go wrong and then mess up subsequent travel.

    • Ben W says:

      Gezza you should use a discount code to get it for £43 from Randox. I agree they’re fairly efficient- strolled to my local dropbox a few weeks back, and had the results back at 5:45am the next morning!

    • Bob says:

      Dubai doesn’t allow at home tests

  • JIF says:

    For anyone living out in the sticks like me, that still travels a lot for work. I found better2know very good for a postal company and turn round times are within the time frame requested.
    Cost is paid by my customers, so price is irrelevant.
    Never had a problem using them for any of the return tests, always through the letter box on time.
    Only grip was test to release, results on day 6.

  • Andrew says:

    Same price at their store in Oxford Westgate.

    At £60, it’s less than 2 days parking in the Council Car Park or a peak return on the train to London.

    On Saturday there was a queue of 15 people outside their shop.

  • Aaron C says:

    In the nicest possible way I hope this is a complete failure and we follow the Irish and dump all of this nonsense.

  • Michael C says:

    So, awaiting the updates but in theory:
    -for a 2-day trip to Paris in late Oct, I’ll need the French sworn cert. / original NHS vaccinations certs going out, then…
    -nothing to come back, apart from the NHS doc? Then do a 2-day test once in UK?

    • Rob says:

      Yes. You mean PLF to return, not NHS doc.

      • Michael C says:

        Thanks – I don’t know what I mean, to tell you the truth!
        Will be our first trip out of British Isles in 18 months, and following your Eurostar idea, Rob, and avoiding LHR at half term.

    • tony says:

      Yes and by late October it should be LFT on day 2, not PCR. Not clear if you can use an NHS one for this yet as I understand.

      • Michael C says:

        Thanks, Tony. All sounds a whole lot easier!

      • IanM says:

        I think you are paying for the reference number to put on your PLF rather than the actual test. Total rip off.
        WHat’s to stop anyone just making up a reference number??

        • blenz101 says:

          Nothing at all. What if you order a £20 in person test in Wigan but never show up, nothing at all. What if you book and pay for a test and cancel it after entering, nothing at all. What if you enter via Ireland, nothing at all.

          If they can just integrate into regular airport security that would the best solution, laptop out, coat off, belt and watch in the tray, liquids in the bin, shoes off, step into the body scanner, head back for your nose swab….

          Makes us all safe though.

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