The government has said it has met its target of offering COVID-19 tests to every care home for the elderly in England or to those living with dementia.
The whole care home testing programme has provided more than 1m test kits to almost 9,000 services regardless of symptoms with over 50,000 test kits being sent each day.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have now managed successfully to offer tests to every care home that is eligible, both for staff testing and for residents to be tested.
“What that means is that for about three quarters of a million people living and working in nearly 9,000 eligible care homes, the tests have been delivered.”
Labour shadow care minister Liz Kendall disputed the government’s claim to have met its target, however, arguing the target had been shifted from having all care home staff and residents tested to having tests delivered.
She said: “Care home residents and staff need to be regularly tested if we are going to get to grips with this virus. And we swiftly need to move to regularly testing family members too, so they can safely visit their loved ones.
“Ministers should now implement a comprehensive strategy for regularly testing all care homes – including for the under-65s – and give social care services the priority and resources they deserve.”
A survey by the National Care Forum (NCF) of its members found that 87% of care homes had been tested as of June 2 with the remaining 13% still awaiting home testing kits.
The NCF said the results boded well for prospects of the government meeting its June 6 target.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the NCF, said: “Testing of all those receiving care and the staff delivering it has been recognised as an absolute priority. Our survey results highlight some key lessons that we have learnt from this first round of testing in terms of accuracy, timeliness and frequency. It is clear that there is a need to improve the accuracy and timeliness of the results from testing to enable social care providers to respond quickly to manage and prevent COVID-19 infections.
“Our findings also highlight key insights into the number of COVID-19 positive tests in asymptomatic staff and residents which emphasises why it is absolutely vital that we move to regular and repeat testing as it is an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19.”
The NCF and Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) welcomed the government’s decision to expand whole home testing to specialist learning disability and mental health care homes.
Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive, said there remained “serious concerns about the lack of parity” in the government’s approach to testing, however, calling for tests to be opened up to people in domiciliary care and supported living services.