Care home operators have said they are struggling to get COVID-19 tests for their workers as the government announced a new initiative to expand screening for frontline workers.
Three-quarters of more than 200 providers contacted by the BBC said none of their staff had been tested for the virus with staff having to travel long distances to test centres.
Vic Rayner, Executive director of the National Care Forum, said: “A large proportion of care staff rely on public transport to get about.
“More needs to be done and practical arrangements made to enable care workers to have access to testing centres so that they can have the confidence and reassurance they need in supporting the most vulnerable in our country.”
An Avery Healthcare spokesman told CHP it had obtained “minimal” testing. Avery added: “Avery will take every opportunity though as testing becomes accessible to ensure that any symptomatic staff are tested, and that those who have been self-isolating are tested, to confirm that they are safe to either continue to or return to work. Until widespread tests are available Avery treats any symptomatic resident as though positive, with barrier-nursing in isolation, although they may not be.”
The news came as the government launched mobile coronavirus testing units for frontline workers, including care homers, which will be operated by the Armed Forces.
The government said the new units would respond to areas of highest demand and were part of its goal to reach 100,000 tests a day.
National Testing Coordinator John Newton said: “Across the country we are creating new infrastructure to rapidly increase our capacity to test for coronavirus. New mobile testing units will help us achieve our goal of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day, providing tests to vital frontline workers wherever they need them.
“In a matter of weeks we have worked with Britain’s leading scientists, academics and industry partners to build scores of new testing facilities and Britain’s largest network of diagnostic labs in history. Each day we are delivering more coronavirus tests, and allowing more frontline staff testing negative for the virus to safely return to work.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman added: “Social care is on the frontline of our fight against coronavirus and the safety of staff and residents is our top priority.
“All care home residents discharged from hospital will be tested before being admitted into their care home and we are using our increased testing capacity to test all symptomatic care home residents, care staff, and their families.”