The UK Government is to roll out regular COVID-19 testing for care home staff and residents this week.
Care home staff will be tested weekly, and residents will be tested monthly to stop the spread of COVID-19 in social care homes for the over 65s across the UK as part of a new social care testing strategy. This testing will be in addition to intensive testing in any care home facing an outbreak, or at increased risk of an outbreak.
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 we will now offer repeat testing to staff and residents in care homes, starting with homes for elderly residents before expanding to the entire care home sector.
“This will not only keep residents and care workers safe, but it will give certainty and peace of mind to the families who may be worried about their loved ones, and give staff the confidence to do what they do best.”
Higher prevalence of COVID-19 in care homes
The regular testing is to be incorporated into the social care strategy following the latest advice from government advisory group, SAGE, and new evidence from the Vivaldi 1 study indicating a higher prevalence in care homes.
The study suggests care home staff may be at increased risk of contracting the infection. Surveying around 9,000 care home managers and analysing data from whole care home testing, the study identified higher levels of the virus among care staff, particularly among temporary staff who work in multiple care settings.
Minister for Care, 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. That’s why from Monday residents will be offered monthly tests, and staff will be tested every week. 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.
“We will work with local directors of public health to deliver an initial round of asymptomatic whole-home testing for staff and residents at the extra care housing and supported living settings at most clinical risk. The operational details of rolling out this testing to this sector are being worked through and more details will be provided shortly.”
Reducing movement between care homes
In order to make the best use of the Infection Control Fund package, David Pearson CBE, Chair of the Adult Social Care Support Taskforce has written to care providers this week to outline the importance of reducing movement between care homes.
He said: “Protecting staff and residents inside our care homes is an absolute priority throughout all phases of the pandemic. Testing is clearly an important part of this, particularly regular testing in key areas where prevalence is likely to be high.
“This new phase in our testing strategy is an important step in protecting one million people in care homes across the country. We are prioritising those care homes for older residents and those with dementia but will expand this even further by August.”