Care home staff and residents will be regularly tested for coronavirus from next week as health officials confirm agency workers ARE included
- Staff and residents in care homes will be regularly tested for coronavirus
- Testing from next week will apply to homes for people over 65 or with dementia
- Staff will be tested weekly, and residents every 28 days in new testing strategy
- This will be in addition to intensive testing in any care home facing an outbreak
Staff and residents in care homes for people over 65 or with dementia will be regularly tested for coronavirus from next week, the Government announced today.
The Department of Health and Social Care said staff will be tested weekly, while residents will have a test every 28 days as part of a new social care testing strategy.
This is in addition to intensive testing in any care home facing an outbreak or at increased risk of a flare-up, the DHSC added.
MHA Care Homes chief executive Sam Monaghan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he welcomed the new guidance as ‘the step change we needed’.
Mr Monaghan had also speculated that agency staff were ‘not included in this’ as far as he was aware – but the DHSC later confirmed that they are included in the rollout and will be tested through the care home they work at.
Agency staff make up about 10 per cent of the social care workforce, and care homes are three times more likely to rely on them than other industries.
A nurse wears personal protective equipment changes the dressings on the legs of an elderly woman during a home visit on June 9
The repeat testing programme will be rolled out to all care homes for the over 65s and those with dementia which have registered to receive retesting over the next four weeks before expanding to the entire care home sector from August.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Our response to this global pandemic has always been led by the latest scientific advice from world-class experts, and we will now offer repeat testing to staff and residents in care homes, starting with homes for elderly residents before expanding to the entire care home sector.
‘This will not only keep residents and care workers safe, but it will give certainty and peace of mind to the families who may be worried about their loved ones, and give staff the confidence to do what they do best.’
The Government has faced criticism for failing to protect care homes from the virus.
There have been 14,658 deaths linked to Covid-19 in care homes across England and Wales registered up to June 19, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data.
A resident at Gracewell in Ascot meets visitors on May 25 after the care home organised a drive-through visit so residents can safely see their loved ones
A National Audit Office report last month claimed that around 25,000 hospital patients were discharged into care homes in England at the height of the pandemic without all being tested for Covid-19.
The new testing strategy comes following the latest advice from the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and new evidence indicating a higher prevalence in care homes, the DHSC said.
The Vivaldi 1 study, which surveyed almost 9,000 care home managers and analysed data from whole care home testing, identified the higher levels of the virus among care staff – particularly among temporary staff working in multiple care settings, it added.
The study suggested that care home staff may be at increased risk of contracting the virus which they could then pass on to others if they have no symptoms, the DHSC said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured at Downing Street on Wednesday) said the move ‘will give certainty and peace of mind to the families who may be worried about their loved ones’
The new repeat testing programme was welcomed by care sector leaders who said it was ‘absolutely essential’ to support care homes managing the spread of infection.
Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green said: ‘The testing programme is one of the cornerstones of Covid-19 prevention, and we are pleased that the Department of Health and Social Care has recognise this, and responded with a comprehensive approach to repeat testing.’
Vic Rayner, executive director of National Care forum, added: ‘Access to repeat and regular testing is absolutely central to support care homes in managing the spread of infection within care homes.
‘Testing has proved to be a vital tool in the box for providers and the continued expansion of the testing regime is essential.’