All care home residents and social care staff with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested as capacity is built up, the government is announcing today.
Currently the first five symptomatic residents in a care home setting are tested to provide confirmation of whether if there is an outbreak,
However, as lab capacity increases every day the government is expanding testing to include all care home residents who develop symptoms.
The safety of residents and staff is a priority and as such, testing will now also be provided to all potential care home residents before they are discharged from hospital. This will provide reassurance and peace of mind to residents and family members, and will help care providers to take appropriate action to ensure that social care workers and other residents are safe – including implementing isolation procedures for those who test positive.
The measures confirmed today are expected to be outlined further in the government’s Covid-19 social care action plan tomorrow, and will help give residents, their families and those that they care for peace of mind.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said:
“I am deeply conscious that people in residential care are among the most vulnerable to coronavirus. We are doing everything we can to keep workers, residents and their families safe, and I am determined to ensure that everyone who needs a coronavirus test should be able to have access to one.
“We have already begun testing social care workers and will roll this out nationwide over the coming days. And as we continue to ramp up our testing programme, we will test all current care home residents with coronavirus symptoms and all new care home residents who are discharged from hospital into care.
“Testing is key in our battle against coronavirus, and as part of our plan to prevent the spread and save lives we will ensure that everyone in social care who needs a test can have a test.”
As the rollout continues the Health Secretary has confirmed that every social care worker who needs a test can now get one.
Dedicated testing has already begun for frontline staff, including social care workers and in addition to over 20,000 tests for NHS workers and their families.
As capacity grows further through the government’s new mega labs, it will prioritise the testing of symptomatic social care workers and anyone in their household who have COVID-19 symptoms.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) are leading coordination of testing for the care sector, and have already offered 6000 care facilities the opportunity to test their staff. By the end of the week they will have contacted all 30,000 care providers.
Care providers will identify workers eligible for testing and refer them to their local testing centre.
Tests for social care staff and residents will support the government to achieve its ambition of 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day by end of April.
Responding to the government’s promise Dr Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“The offer of more tests for social care staff is desperately needed as this sector has been suffering in silence during this pandemic. But it comes as health leaders across primary, community and mental health services are continuing to experience difficulties with getting their staff the tests they need to get back to work despite similar promises being made by Government.
“Things are improving but the country’s testing capacity is far from where it needs to be to meet the ambition of 100,000 a day in just over two weeks – that’s over 85,000 more tests a day than what is happening now.
“We need absolute clarity from the Government on how this will be achieved in such a short space of time otherwise it will be viewed as a false promise.
“Also, if we are to understand and beat this virus we need to understand how and where it is spreading, and for the frontline to be protected. That is why the number of deaths in care homes should be released daily in the same way as they are for hospital deaths and why the workforce must be given better access to PPE.”
The National Care Forum (NCF), the national body for the not for profit care sector, has also responded,
Ms. Vic Rayner, Executive Director of NCF says “This is welcome news from the government, but comes way too late in the day. The care sector has been asking for this since day 1 of the pandemic, and the government has been extremely slow to respond to the emerging crisis. It seems that the mantra what gets measured matters has been applied to the lives of people in care homes, and without the vital test to tell us that many were suffering, ministers and officials were unable to see the impact of the pandemic outside of the hospital environment.”
Vic goes on to say “This needs to stop now. Social care is an essential service and needs to be treated as one. The government has told us we are in a battle with an unseen enemy, yet to date social care has been left to make do and mend – like the Dad’s Army of the battalion. To win this war, the government needs to rapidly equip it’s whole army of health and social care with the equipment and the resources to fight the fight on every front.”
Testing For All Who Need It
Care England welcomed the announcement Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says:“During this dreadful pandemic it is hard to find things to be positive about, but today’s announcement from DHSC that testing will be available for all social care staff and residents that need it is indeed welcome. Care homes will be in a much better position to face this virus head on once they have been able to test both their staff, residents and new residents who have been discharged from hospital into their care homes”.
Care England is working tirelessly to ensure that the needs of the adult social care sector, the second front line, are heard at this time of crisis and have been focusing exclusively on the need for sufficient PPE and testing. We sincerely hope that the narrative will become a practical reality and whilst timing is of course of the essence, a more thorough testing regime will enable the social care sector to support its colleagues in the NHS as they strive to combat corona virus.
Martin Green continues:
“Testing and PPE go hand in hand and are at the forefront of all care providers’ minds. It is heartening to know that the Government is listening to the sector. I’m humbled to see the amazing work that the social care workers are doing round the clock and would urge anyone who thinks that a career in social care is unskilled or not a key worker to think again”.