Government pledges to expand care home testing this winter are not achievable without additional resources, the National Care Forum (NCF) has said.
The government has set a target of increasing care home testing to twice weekly for staff and weekly for residents as well as pledging to enable two weekly visits per resident by the end of the year through rapid testing, however, NCF members expressed concerns over meeting these targets due to ongoing pressures.
One provider commented: “The increase to twice weekly testing for staff and weekly testing for residents will place additional strain on our staffing and resources due to the considerable increase in administrative work and logistics.
“We struggle already to find the time and staffing to manage this. Care staff are taken off the floor at the moment. We will have to employ someone to do it all for us, and even then, logistically it is difficult.”
NCF analysis found that testing commitments under the Winter Plan would entail an additional 5 million care hours for an already overstretched sector.
Speaking during a press briefing this morning on the findings of the NCF’s second Pulse survey of members, Brunelcare CEO, Oonagh Goldsworthy, expressed her concerns over the efficacy of lateral flow testing (LFT).
NCF executive director, Vic Rayner, said care home providers were being left in a “pretty invidious position” amidst growing disputes on LFTs, which has seen councils in Greater Manchester, Sheffield and East Riding advise against their use.
Oonagh said that while Brunelcare planned to pilot lateral flow tests, their roll-out would be a “logistical challenge” for her services and added that the not for profit provider would be able to achieve more visits outside of the LFT programme.
Vic added: “Whilst we rightly celebrate the arrival of a vaccine, it is vital that the day-to-day impact of managing during this pandemic is recognised. Values, innovation and resilience have driven the social care response to COVID-19, however, the toll on our amazing workforce, those who receive care, families and loved ones and the sustainability of organisations is immense. Government ignores this at their peril. Warm words and headline grabbing commitments mean nothing without the resource and infrastructure to support meaningful implementation – be that testing, vaccination, PPE or accolades for the workforce.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We understand how important it is for the wellbeing of residents to be reunited with their loved ones.
“To bring families back together safely we have sent out millions of tests, provided free PPE and issued guidance to enable this across all tiers, with homes around the country arranging visits now.
“Our aim is for all care homes to receive their tests by 18 December and we continue to work closely with the sector to provide as much support as possible.”