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Can I get a paternity test on the NHS?

No. Paternity tests are not available on the NHS.

Getting advice

If you're considering a paternity test, it's important to think carefully about the issues involved, for example:

  • whether testing is in the child's best interests
  • the impact of the test result, including its effect on family relationships

If the result is unexpected or not the result you want, it can affect everyone involved for the rest of their lives.

It's a good idea to discuss the issues with your GP. They can help you consider what's involved and may be able to arrange counselling.

If you do decide to have a paternity test, you will have to pay for it. The cost varies depending on the test provider you use. It's important to use a company with high quality service and standards.

DNA and paternity tests

A child inherits DNA from both its parents. Paternity tests can identify whether a man is the father of a child by looking at DNA from:

  • the man
  • the child
  • the mother

All three individuals – the man, the child and the mother – provide a sample containing their DNA so it can be analysed accurately. The sample can be cheek cells from inside the mouth or a blood sample.

Some companies offer paternity tests that only require samples from the child and the man (sometimes called motherless testing). Results from tests like this are less accurate.

Consent for a paternity test

Each person must give written consent to their sample being taken and tested.
For a child under 16, a person with parental responsibility may consent on their behalf.

If a child or young person can understand the issues involved, their opinion should be taken into account when deciding whether the test is in their best interests.

You can find information about parental responsibility on the GOV.UK website.

Court-directed paternity test

If a court-directed paternity test is required for legal reasons, the court will require the samples to be taken under strict conditions by a test provider accredited by the Ministry of Justice.

If the person with parental responsibility refuses consent for a child to be tested but the court considers the test is in the child's best interests, the court may order the test to go ahead. A direction can also be sought from the court if the man or mother refuses consent for a paternity test.

Child Support Agency (CSA) paternity test

You must use a provider accredited by the Ministry of Justice for DNA tests required as evidence for the CSA to confirm whether someone is a child's parent.

The fee for testing three people (two adults and one child) is currently £252. 

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 07/08/2013

Next review due: 06/08/2015