The government is providing £149m to care homes in order to speed up testing in light of the new more transmissible strain of coronavirus.
The additional funding, which is designed to meet the additional costs associated with visiting, will be made available early next year and will distributed by local authorities.
Under the plans, which have been accelerated in light of the new more transmissible strain of COVID-19, staff will be asked to take rapid tests twice a week, in addition to the weekly PCR test they have already been receiving as part of urgent government action to protect those most at risk.
In the event of a positive test in a Tier 4 care home, all staff will additionally be tested daily for seven days.
Funding will cover the infrastructure costs of the expanded testing programme, including setting up testing areas and resource costs, including gaining consent for tests, supervising the use of PPE and swab tests and then processing and logging the results.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock (pictured) said: “We have worked throughout the pandemic to protect staff, and residents in care homes and today we are boosting rapid testing in care homes, with a further 149 million pounds to support that effort.
“All those who work in care homes across England will receive two rapid tests a week, in addition to their weekly PCR test.”
Close-contact visiting has been banned by the government in Tier 4 areas, with indoor visits still allowed in Tier 1, 2 and 3, where the visitor has been tested and returned a negative result, accept in the event of an active outbreak.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: “Our priority is to keep care home residents and staff safe, and we have been working hard to make the most of our testing capacity to help people reunite with loved ones as safely as possible.
“Now in the face of this new strain, which spreads much more quickly, we are increasing testing in all care homes to help protect those most at risk. This £149million grant will give care homes the tools and support they need to test staff regularly and safely reunite families kept apart because of COVID-19.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said: “As community transmission increases, we recognise the need for care homes to provide additional testing for residents, staff and visitors. As such, we welcome the extra £149 million from Government for care homes to address the additional responsibilities placed upon them in terms of testing. We hope that the money will come though as soon as possible in the new year and can dovetail with an increased roll out of a vaccine to residents and staff.
“The sector is concerned about the reliability of LFD tests. Underpinning all this is of course the need for indemnity insurance in parallel with the NHS to enable the sector to operate at optimum level in this crisis.”
Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the National Care Forum (NCF), said: “The £149m extra funding from government is definitely welcome news. This is urgently needed to support the extra testing and comes after several months of intense discussion about the very practical difficulties of the exponential expansion of on-site testing in care homes and the very significant additional resource this requires.
“It is an important acknowledgment by government of the very significant pressures that increasing the use of rapid LFD tests will bring to care homes who are already stretched to the limit with all the additional work that operating in a COVID-19 world has created.
“The government must now ensure that all care homes have their LFD tests in place as a matter of urgency, if care homes are to make the additional testing happen. At this moment, despite national roll out, we know that a number of care homes have yet to receive their LFD tests and this must be resolved immediately.”