Testing in care homes to be stepped up
Regular virus testing of care home staff and residents is to begin from this week, to maximise the data on current virus trends at these sites and minimise the risk of any potential outbreaks. As part of the Government testing strategy, it was announced that testing would be carried out with increased regularity in care homes. Staff are to be tested weekly, and residents every month.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “Our response to this global pandemic has always been led by the latest scientific advice from world-class experts” and that testing would be “starting with homes for elderly residents before expanding to the entire care home sector.” Such a move will protect staff and residents, while also providing peace of mind and reassurance to them and a sense of confidence that they are not unwittingly spreading COVID-19 in such a vulnerable environment. Care homes in which there is suspicion or evidence of emerging outbreaks of the virus will receive heightened levels of testing in order to facilitate quarantining of COVID-positive individuals.
The decision to begin routine testing originates in the scientific advice of SAGE and from latest data in the Vivaldi1 study which indicates a higher prevalence of the virus in care home settings. Minister for Care, Helen Whately said that the DHSC would work with local health figures to deliver a first round “of asymptomatic whole-home testing for staff and residents at the extra care home and supported living settings at most clinical risk”. Operational details of this preliminary roll-out are due to be released to the relevant organisations shortly. At this stage, routine testing is being offered to older patients (over 65s) and those with dementia, although eligibility beyond these groups is due to be expanded by August.