In response to the announcement today of a significant increase in staff testing in care homes to take effect immediately, supported by £149m specific funding, Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the National Care Forum (NCF) – the leading member association for not-for-profit social care providers said:
“This announcement comes at a very difficult time for care homes and at the end of a long and challenging year. All staff in care homes will now need to have 2 rapid tests via lateral flow devices each week alongside the current weekly PCR testing – this is a tripling of the current staff testing regime which care homes are being asked to put into practice immediately with no notice. These additional commitments sit alongside major additional testing requirements around visiting, and the expectation that testing will be majorly ramped up during outbreaks.
“The £149m extra funding from government is definitely welcome news. This is urgently needed to support the extra testing and comes after several months of intense discussion about the very practical difficulties of the exponential expansion of on-site testing in care homes and the very significant additional resource this requires.
“It is an important acknowledgment by government of the very significant pressures that increasing the use of rapid LFD tests will bring to care homes who are already stretched to the limit with all the additional work that operating in a COVID-19 world has created.
“The government must now ensure that all care homes have their LFD tests in place as a matter of urgency, if care homes are to make the additional testing happen. At this moment, despite national roll out, we know that a number of care homes have yet to receive their LFD tests and this must be resolved immediately.
“The data shared by government, and the knowledge from our membership about the impact of COVID-19 makes it crystal clear just how important it is that we get this right for the most vulnerable members of our community. We must not for a moment shift our attention away from those citizens that need support most – whether it is through increased testing, prioritised vaccination, access to rapid and effective health interventions or enabling meaningful visits to connect residents and loved ones. As our minds turn to Christmas and the increase in restrictions that will follow immediately and into the new year, it is vital that we do not for a moment turn our attention away from those who need us most. The funding for testing is an important step forward, but it is unlikely to be sufficient to close the gap and we will continue to need government to have those receiving care and support, and working in the sector, front and centre of their decision making as we venture into the unknowns of 2021.
“The warm words of thanks from the Secretary of State for care staff who will be working their way through this Christmas were important to hear, but for the hundreds of thousands of staff who will be working whilst much of the country celebrates, albeit in tightened circumstance, they are likely to ring hollow.
Care workers have always been the occupational group with the highest number of people working on Christmas Day. If ever this government was going to follow the lead of Scotland and Wales and reward all those staff for the multiple personal sacrifices they have made throughout this pandemic and will continue to do to keep everyone safe over Christmas – then this is the time to do it. Care workers need all of our respect and we need government to step up and show just how much it values their contribution.”