Care home leaders have called for mandatory testing after CQC inspectors reported COVID-19 symptoms.
Freedom of Information (FoI) requests acquired by The Sunday Telegraph have revealed that over 100 CQC inspectors reported COVID-19 symptoms or have been forced to self-isolate.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) had halted routine scheduled inspections for five months in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, however in September they took the decision, approved by the Department of Health, to redeploy inspectors.
Testing is not presently required for CQC inspectors visiting care homes, and there are currently an estimated 1,300 inspectors, and it is believed that up to 500 inspections over the next six weeks are planned.
The lack of testing has drawn from care providers fierce criticism Care providers, with operators calling on the CQC to introduce mandatory testing for all inspectors as they insist that otherwise ‘lives will be put at risk’.
Labour MP Barbara Keeley says that the data proves why it is now essential that inspectors are regularly tested in order to protect elderly lives.
Speaking to the independent newspaper she said: ‘On the basis of these numbers, inspectors may be potentially taking infections into care homes. Given the risk Covid-19 poses in care homes, this cannot be allowed to happen.
‘It’s just not acceptable that the inspectors are not being tested regularly… It is clear from these numbers that the only way for CQC inspections to resume in a safe manner is for all inspectors to have access to regular Covid-19 testing, even if they are asymptomatic.’
A CQC Spokesperson said: “DHSC has advised us that CQC inspectors do not meet the criteria for regular weekly asymptomatic testing, as inspectors are not required to undertake ‘hands on’ close personal contact with people. We remain in regular contact with DHSC on this and will continue to keep this under review.
“All CQC staff engaging in inspection and registration visits must undertake a risk assessment prior to the visit. They must use the PPE identified, have gone through training on its use, and have completed the Infection Prevention and Control training.
“This approach is in line with what has been agreed for other professionals. DHSC will continually review their policies as more evidence emerges during the pandemic, and if the evidence means the criteria needs to change, they will advise us accordingly.”
A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson added: “Our testing policy is based on scientific advice to limit the spread of COVID-19 and prioritises health and care staff who are in direct, personal and regular contact with patients and residents.
“CQC inspectors do not have close contact with residents and are expected to follow proper infection prevention and control measures at all times – including social distancing, correct use of PPE and hand washing to stop the spread of the virus.”