Care home residents and staff could be forced to wait five weeks for Covid-19 tests

30 July 2020, 15:47 | Updated: 30 July 2020, 16:05

Care home residents and staff will be left with a five week wait
Care home residents and staff will be left with a five week wait. Picture: PA
Maddie Goodfellow

By Maddie Goodfellow

Care UK, the UK's largest independent social care provider, has said it can no longer access regular coronavirus testing for staff and residents because of an issue with a government-used supplier.

In a letter, which was leaked to Sky News, Care UK chief executive Andrew Knight said there would be a minimum of a five weeks wait before they can access another round of testing kits for homes in England.

The letter was leaked to Sky News by a concerned resident at one of the homes. Care UK has confirmed that the letter is genuine.

The letter said: "We have been notified by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that due to an issue with a particular test from one supplier, we will no longer have access to weekly testing for colleagues or monthly testing for residents."

"Communication from the Government on this matter has been sorely lacking", he adds."I am sure many of you will find this situation as disappointing as I do, especially given the positive messages the Government is still issuing about the scale of the testing programme it is supposedly offering."

The letter was leaked to Sky News by a concerned relative who described the government's treatment of care homes as "scandalous".

The DHSC said at the start of July that all care home staff in England would be able to access a coronavirus test every week.

It also pledged that residents would receive monthly tests.

It comes after a report published this week said that care homes had been "effectively thrown to the wolves" by the government.

The assessment, which was made by the House of Commons spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, said the social care sector had not been treated as well as the NHS during the pandemic.

The committee also described the government's decision to discharge 25,000 hospital patients into care homes without ensuring they had been tested was an "appalling error".

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is yet to comment.

It comes after the news that more than half of care providers felt pressured to take in hospital patients who had not been tested for coronavirus during the height of the pandemic, according to an investigation.

71 of 124 care providers in England felt pressured by hospitals and councils to receive untested patients as efforts were made to rapidly free up beds.

Three-quarters (92) of the care providers felt GPs and medical staff were reluctant to visit care homes during March and April, while 73 said they felt pressure not to send residents to hospital.

The providers surveyed between June 26 and July 14 are members of Care England or the National Care Home Association and look after more than 350 care homes across the country.

Responses from 39 NHS trusts in England to a Freedom of Information request sent by the programme revealed just one in four patients were tested before being discharged to care homes between March 1 and April 15.

NHS trusts were urged to rapidly discharge hospital patients to free up beds for a predicted surge in need due to coronavirus on March 17.

But it was not until April 15 that the Government said patients should be tested before discharge.

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