Care home staff and residents in care homes for the over-65s and those living with dementia will receive regular coronavirus tests from next week, the government has announced.
Under the new social care testing strategy, staff will receive weekly tests with residents being tested every 28 days in addition to intensive testing for any home facing an outbreak or increased risk of an outbreak.
Health and Social Care 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 move follows the latest advice from SAGE and new evidence from the Vivaldi 1 study indicating a higher prevalence of the virus in care homes.
The Vivaldi study of 9,000 care home managers and whole home testing showed higher virus levels among staff, particularly those working temporarily in multiple care settings.
Retesting is scheduled to take place in all care homes for the over 65s and those living with dementia over the next four weeks and will be extended to all care homes for working age adults in August.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said: “Regular and routine testing is absolutely critical if we are to garner a better understanding and keep at bay this dreadful virus which has had such a devastating impact on care homes. This initiative needs to be rolled out to all care homes, including those adults with learning disabilities and also supported living.
“Testing is not a one off activity, in order for it to be meaningful it needs to be regular thus we welcome this measure as a step forward. Staff and residents can be asymptomatic yet testing shows that they are positive hence the need for testing, testing and yet more testing to get a handle on this virus.”
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. It is very welcome to have repeat testing announced for all staff in care homes, and we look forward to this being rolled out across all staff in the social care sector. Testing has proved to be a vital tool in the box for providers and the continued expansion of the testing regime is essential.”
Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, commented: “It’s great news that testing is to be made more regular. We’ve been calling for this and it’s what people should have expected from the start of the lockdown. But this should be just the beginning of the sector bouncing back. Reform is needed; over issues such as funding – and supporting the workforce more.
“Again and again, people across the sector having been telling us that they don’t want things to go back to the way they were, with people often being seen as passive recipients of care. Social care is about enabling people to live every day well, whether perhaps you’re a young adult with a disability or maybe living independently in older age. Reform of social care is needed and the COVID-19 crisis has reminded us of this in a stark way.”