The Government is “obviously concerned” about issues in care homes amid reports that asymptomatic staff and residents are struggling to get coronavirus tests, a minister said.
James Brokenshire said the Government is continuing to work with the care sector, when asked about reports that care home residents and staff are not being tested to determine if they are asymptomatic Covid-19 sufferers.
The Security Minister told the BBC: “We are still very firmly discussing with the sector, with Public Health England (PHE) and reaching out to ensure that capacity is reaching where it needs to be.
“That work still continues.
“We are obviously concerned about issues in care homes, ensuring there is that reach, it is there in terms of the capacity, having gone up, and how we ensure we can get that further, where it is needed, given the whole point of investing in that was to ensure that it can give that sense of reassurance.”
In mid-April the Government pledged that all frontline care workers in need of a test should have one.
On April 28, the Government announced that coronavirus tests would be extended to residents and staff in care homes, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Michelle Williams, director of care at Fairfield care home in Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “I felt the message was it would be happening the next day.
“On the four occasions I’ve talked to the various authorities I have made requests for asymptomatic residents, and in no uncertain terms I’ve been told that’s not happening, that is not at the moment part of our service.”
The Government says it is delivering up to 30,000 tests a day to residents and staff in elderly care homes and is prioritising the rapid roll-out of home test kits.
This week the National Care Forum published a survey suggesting just 22% of social care workers considered a priority for a Covid-19 test have been able to access one.
The body, which represents social care organisations, found that out of a sample of 31,262 care staff, 6,469 were in urgent need of testing due to having symptoms of the virus.
But the survey, carried out between April 30 and May 4, found only 1,463 had received one.
Chairman of the Independent Care Group (ICG), Mike Padgham, said: “The testing process has definitely let us down in care and nursing homes and there is no doubt that some lives could have been saved if the process had been better.
“Days ago, the Secretary of State said all residents and staff in care and nursing homes would be tested, but PHE and the CQC (Care Quality Commission) are saying that it should only be those with symptoms. So even now, weeks into the pandemic, there is still confusion.
“Testing still isn’t reaching care and nursing homes – speaking for my home, less than half of my residents and staff have been tested so far.
“We need testing to be simpler – ideally with PHE coming to homes to do the testing.
“It should all have been done earlier and we perhaps would have not have had so many deaths.”