A leading union has warned of the risk of CQC inspectors becoming COVID-19 ‘super-spreaders’ after they were denied testing by the Government.
The warning came after inspectors were reportedly denied access to weekly COVID-19 tests ahead of visiting more than 500 care homes over the next six weeks.
Kelly Andrews, GMB Social Care Lead, said: “This position just highlights how little the Government understands the social care sector.
“Inspectors don’t just walk around the home, clip board in hand ticking boxes; they sit and speak to the residents and staff to fully understand what the real issues within the home are – as they should.
“Without regular testing that will put them at risk of contracting and spreading the virus. We can’t comprehend why the Government would deny inspectors access to testing in such a vulnerable industry.”
A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: “Our testing policy is based on scientific advice to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, and prioritises health and care staff who are in direct, personal contact with patients and residents.
“CQC inspectors are not required to make personal contact, however, everyone working in care homes, including inspectors, should follow proper infection prevention and control measures, including correct use of PPE and hand washing to stop the spread of the virus.”
The DHSC said CQC inspectors did not meet the criteria for weekly asymptomatic testing as they were not required to be within 1 metre of a resident to carry out their role.
It said two pilots had been launched to provide regular COVID-19 testes for professionals meeting certain criteria who visit care homes two or more times a week and who are required to be within 1 metre of residents.
A CQC Spokesperson said: “DHSC has advised us 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.
“This approach is in line with what has been agreed for other professionals. DHSC will continually review their policies as more evidence emerges during the pandemic, and if the evidence means the criteria needs to change, they will advise us accordingly.”