The government’s promise to regularly test every care home resident and staff member for coronavirus has been delayed until September.
After having previously promised to roll-out regular asymptomatic care home testing over the summer, the government has confirmed it plans to reach all care homes for older people and those living with dementia by 7 September after a memo was leaked to the press.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Care home testing has not stopped, any care home resident or member of staff with symptoms will continue to be able to immediately access a free test. Protecting care home residents and staff has been one of our top priorities during this unprecedented pandemic and we are issuing at least 50,000 tests a day to care homes across the country prioritising high priority outbreak areas.
“A combination of issues have meant that a more limited number of testing kits, which are predominantly used in care homes, are currently available and we are temporarily constrained in our ability to do as much asymptomatic testing as we want.
“We are working around the clock to ensure there is minimum disruption to repeat asymptomatic testing and get our capacity back on track as soon as possible.”
The news comes after leading care home groups Care UK and MHA warned last week it would be weeks before they could roll-out regular testing due to the withdrawal of Randox test kits.
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, told CHP: “Testing is vitally important for care homes and without it, we will have difficulty reinstating visiting and this decision will place some of the most vulnerable people at risk. I do not understand why this has happened because there are still test kits available on the open market, and the government should procure them and ensure that the strategy for testing in care homes happens immediately.”
Meanwhile, in further news, the government announced it was rolling out millions of new rapid coronavirus tests to NHS hospitals, care homes and laboratories from next week.
The tests, which are being rolled out to increase testing capacity ahead of winter, will deliver results in just 90 minutes.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We’re using the most innovative technologies available to tackle coronavirus. Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly.
“The fact these tests can detect flu as well as COVID-19 will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others.”
Commenting on both announcements, Nadra Ahmed OBE, executive chair of the National Care Association, told CHP: “Once again a set of very mixed messages for social care on a subject that is absolutely at the heart of our ability to mitigate the risk of this infection taking a hold in our services. Is social care at the heart of their thinking? If it was we would have known a lot more much sooner and not at the 11th hour. Forgive me for being cynical but I want to see a consistent availability of testing within our sector now.”