Government officials have apologised after failing to meet a promise to provide care home COVID-19 test results within 72 hours.
The apology was issued after a nursing home operator told The Guardian that a seven-day delay in results could have caused staff to infect a resident, describing the current system as “chaotic” and like “Russian roulette”.
Another care home owner, Simon Whalley, vice chair of the Surrey Care Association and chairman of the Birtley House Group, said: “Within Birtley House Group we’ve seen delays of up to a week in test results, with around 10% of the eventual results coming back as ‘unclear’ – something that leaves us very much in limbo.
“Do these staff and residents go into isolation? Given the pressure the industry is under, enforced – and potentially unnecessary – absence can have a serious impact on our provision of care, while the avoidable isolation of individual residents can have a profound effect on their wellbeing and mental health.”
The Department of Health and Social Care told us it had met its 7 September target of providing testing kits for older people and people living with dementia who had registered for regular testing kits and was contacting the remaining care homes who had not registered to do so.
In a further setback, care homes reported last month that the government was failing in its promise to deliver a national rapid delivery testing programme.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is working – hundreds of thousands people are being tested every day to make sure we stay in control of this virus. There is a high demand for tests and our laboratories continue to turn test results around as quickly as possible.
“We have the largest diagnostic network in British history, and we plan to rapidly expand it in the coming weeks as well as bringing in new technology to process tests faster.”