A care home visitor COVID-19 testing pilot scheme is to begin next week, Care Minister Helen Whately has told MPs.
Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate, Ms Whately (pictured) said 30 care homes would take part in the initial trial on 16 November with plans to roll-out the scheme across the country in December.
Ms Whately said: “A trial will be launched this month in four local authorities in areas of lower prevalence, where the risk is lower. That will launch on 16 November in a range of 30 different care homes both to assess the practicalities of testing and to make sure that we are confident in its safety. That will trial both the polymerase chain reaction—PCR—test that has been used for some time and the newly introduced lateral flow test that can be turned around quickly.”
The trials are designed to enable designated family members to visit residents if they test negative.
Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall said the Labour Party had been calling for families to have the regular testing and PPE they need for visits since 17 June.
She added: “The bottom line is that a pilot is not good enough or quick enough. We need those visits now.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We understand the pain and consequences of loved ones being separated from one another, and we must get the balance right between reuniting families and ensuring care staff and residents are kept safe and well, while preventing the transmission of COVID-19.
“Our latest guidance allows care home providers, families and local professionals across England to work together to find solutions to allow visits to go ahead in a COVID-secure way. And we are beginning a pilot, testing visitors to care homes in the coming days to give families more opportunities to reunite with their loved ones.”