Care home leaders have expressed their disappointment after the government’s promise of a national rapid COVID-19 testing programme failed to materialise this week.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced at the beginning of this month that 450,000, 90-minute LamPORE swab tests would be made available to laboratories and care settings this week but Community Integrated Care, CEO, Mark Adams said the kits had failed to materialise.
Mark told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme yesterday: “Like many people in the sector we were delighted to hear there was an advancement in testing protocols and we were hoping that across the country we might see some of these new kits arriving at our services and so far we haven’t seen anything.”
The CEO said he had spoken to 75 care home CEOs and none of them had received the kits.
“We are in a situation where government has given encouragement to families that visiting their loved ones is either available now or should shortly be available. The only defence we have against asymptomatic carriers of COVID is regular testing. I would say half of our homes haven’t had testing for at least four or five weeks and a number of those homes are in areas that are locked down because of rising concerns over COVID in the community.”
The failure to deliver by the government is prompting frustrated and anxious care home operators to seek their own testing solutions to safeguard their residents. CHP spoke to Charles Geoghegan, director of the Geoghegan Group, last week, about how he has successfully rolled out a 10-minute rapid testing solution.
The news on rapid testing represents the latest setback to the government’s care home testing programme after it announced that promised regular testing of elderly care homes had been delayed until 7 September partly because of a recall of up to 750,000 Randox test kits.
A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson said: “Our testing support for care homes continues and any resident or member of staff with symptoms can immediately access a free test. We are exploring ways to increase the amount of testing, making full use of available lab capacity.”
The DHSC said rapid testing was initially being piloted in the laboratory as part of an extended validation process and will process samples that may include care home samples in line with the current testing policy.
The BBC report also highlighted infection risks posed by the resumption of care home visits by healthcare workers and care inspectors who are not being tested under the government’s national programme.
The DHSC added: “Regular asymptomatic testing for professionals who visit care homes is not currently available through the National Testing programme. This is based on clinical advice regarding relative priority and available testing capacity.”
Two pilots for regular asymptomatic testing of visiting professionals are about to get under way.
A CQC spokesperson told CHP: “DHSC has advised that CQC inspectors do not meet the criteria for regular weekly asymptomatic testing, as inspectors are not required to undertake ‘hands on’ close personal contact with people. We remain in regular contact with DHSC on this and will continue to keep this under review.
“All CQC staff engaging in inspection and registration visits must undertake a risk assessment prior to the visit. They must use the PPE identified, have gone through training on its use, and have completed the Infection Prevention and Control training.”