Coronavirus: Care home staff and residents to get regular tests

A care home resident is tested for coronavirusImage copyright
PA Media

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Elderly care home residents will be tested every 28 days

Staff and residents in care homes in England and Wales will receive regular coronavirus tests from next week.

Staff will be tested for coronavirus weekly, while residents will receive a test every 28 days to prevent the spread of coronavirus in social care.

The testing policy, which begins on Monday, will also apply to younger patients suffering from dementia.

Any care home dealing with an outbreak, or at increased risk of an outbreak, will be more intensively tested.

There has been questions of the government’s handling of the pandemic in residential homes, and experts in the care sector have said repeat testing was crucial to containing the virus.

There have been 14,658 deaths linked to Covid-19 in care homes across England and Wales registered up to 19 June, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

A National Audit Office report last month claimed that about 25,000 hospital patients were discharged into care homes in England at the height of the pandemic, without all being tested for Covid-19.

A government survey of almost 9,000 care home managers has identified high levels of the virus among care staff, particularly among temporary staff who work in multiple care settings.

The data, being published on Friday morning by the ONS, will show care home staff may be at increased risk of contracting the virus, which they may then pass on to others if they have no symptoms.

The regular testing process will begin next week across all care homes for over 65s and residents with dementia who have registered to receive retesting.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new policy would give “certainty and peace of mind” to families who may otherwise be worried about their loved ones.

Care Minister Helen Whately said: “Social care and its workforce are at the front line of this unprecedented pandemic with many of our care homes looking after those who are most at risk from coronavirus.

“It is our priority to protect care residents and staff and testing is a crucial part of that. This is so important as it means care workers can be sure they are providing the very best care without worrying if they are carrying the virus themselves.”

Care providers have also been advised of the importance of reducing movement between care homes to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It comes as the Department of Health published detailed guidance to pubs, restaurants, cinemas and other venues reopening in England on 4 July on the best way to collect records of staff and visitors to help NHS contact tracers.

The information will be kept for 21 days and used to reach anyone who at a later date was found to have potentially been in contact with a positive coronavirus case,