Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged that all care homes in England should have access to testing to allow visits by Christmas.
Mr Hancock’s pledge came as the government launched a pilot visitor testing programme in 20 care homes in Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall yesterday.
The Health and Social Care Secretary (pictured) told BBC Breakfast: “Our goal is to ensure that we have the testing available in every care home by Christmas, to make sure that people can take a test and therefore see their loved ones safely.”
Care home leaders questioned the need for a pilot programme, however, and urged the government to roll out the scheme nationally immediately.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, said: “Our pleasure at this pledge is only tempered by the fact that we have had Government promises before and they have failed to materialise.
“We question whether we need to have the pilot programme – which has only just started at 20 homes. By the time that pilot has been completed and the results considered we will be getting perilously close to Christmas. Our advice would be to press ahead with getting testing kits and training out to the homes as soon as possible and not delay any further.”
Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, agreed telling The Guardian: “We have a four-week pilot for 20 homes and that takes us to 14 December. What he is promising is to extend this to almost 16,000 homes in less than a fortnight. We can’t go from pilot to implementation in 11 days. We need to get ready for this now and understand what it is going to cost.”