Testing for people living in care homes is “still very patchy” despite a pledge by the Government to check all staff and residents for Covid-19, an operator has said.
Avery Healthcare, which houses around 3,500 residents in 56 homes across England, said testing facilities still vary across the country.
In mid-April the Government gave assurances that all frontline care workers in need of a test should have one.
On April 28, it was announced that coronavirus tests would be extended to residents and staff in care homes – regardless of whether they have symptoms.
A spokesman for Avery told the PA news agency that while testing is increasing for social care staff, checks for residents are not yet available in the numbers providers are hoping for.
“Testing is now becoming more readily available for our staff and obviously, as with every provider, we’re encouraging our staff to go and get tested as quickly as possible,” the spokesman said.
“Testing for residents is starting to become available but not in the quantity or consistency across the country that we would want. And I’m sure that goes for every operator, it is still very patchy.
“We’re still not where anybody in the sector would like to be, which is consistent, regular, available testing in sufficient quantities that you could test everybody in the same home at the same time.
“We all know the danger lies in people who are carrying the virus but are not aware of it and are asymptomatic.
“What we need to do is test, test, test, because if you can do that you can identify, and if you can identify you can isolate, and if you can isolate you can drive down the R value.”
The coronavirus recovery strategy, published on Monday, detailed steps to protect care homes, which include offering testing to staff and residents at every care home for the over-65s by June 6.
It comes as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced it was launching a new online portal to arrange for coronavirus testing kits to be delivered to care homes in England.
Testing will be prioritised for homes that look after the over-65s, according to officials.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it will allow those who book tests “to do so even more easily”, while allowing the prioritisation of homes in the greatest need.
As of 9am 11 May, there have been 1,921,770 tests, with 100,490 tests on 10 May.— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) May 11, 2020
1,400,107 people have been tested of which 223,060 tested positive.
As of 5pm on 10 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 32,065 have sadly died. pic.twitter.com/peEKZjgxYK
Results for residents will be communicated to the care home managers and will also be provided to councils to help manage outbreaks in local areas.
Barchester Healthcare, which runs more than 200 care homes across the UK, said nearly 30% of its staff and residents have been tested.
The provider said that, from Monday, all its care homes in England are to be registered to check all staff currently working and residents who have not tested positive previously.
The Government says more than 140,000 Covid-19 test kits have been to delivered to 4,387 care homes since April 20, when it began delivering kits under the satellite programme.