Covid-19 test results for care home nurses ‘consistently delayed and lost’Ivy Madziva
Covid-19 test results for care home nurses ‘consistently delayed and lost’.
BY MEGAN FORD
Care home nurses continue to struggle with access to coronavirus tests, with some reporting that results are “consistently delayed, inconclusive or even get lost”, according to a nursing union.
The Royal College of Nursing has warned that, without proper testing and processes in place, the social care workforce and its residents “will be put at unnecessary risk”.
“Some members have told us they are concerned testing results are consistently delayed, inconclusive or even get lost”
The comments follow a letter from the Department of Health and Social Care which confirmed that the national rise in Covid-19 cases was being “reflected” in care homes too.
Signed by Stuart Miller, director of adult social care delivery, the letter stressed the importance of staff testing and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) “to stop the virus in its tracks”.
It said that during the course of last week, Public Health England had “reported an increase in notifications of Covid-19 cases in care homes” and that testing data had also revealed a rise in the number of positive results.
In the letter, which was sent to adult social care providers on Friday 11 September, Mr Miller said the infections were “mainly affecting the workforce”.
At the start of July, the government had announced plans for the roll-out of weekly tests for staff at care homes for older people, and monthly tests for residents.
However, concerns had been raised by Care UK that the government had failed to keep its promises and that some care homes were experiencing up to five-week waits.
Care UK reveals five-week delay on staff coronavirus testing. Weekly care home staff Covid-19 tests to be rolled out, ministers announce. In his recent letter, Mr Miller said the department “recognise that rollout of the repeat testing programme for care homes was unfortunately delayed”.
But he went on to state that tests had now been delivered to all care homes for older people who signed up for regular testing and that a portal was now also open for those for working age adults to register for repeat testing.
“At present, we have no significant backlog and are able to send out test kits within several days of orders being placed,” Mr Miller wrote.
However, RCN England director Mike Adams told Nursing Times that nurses were still raising concerns to the union about staff testing procedures in these settings.
“We have repeatedly called for nursing staff to be given access to testing as a priority and that includes those working in care homes,” he said.
“Despite assurances that staff working in care homes will have a weekly Covid-19 test, our members continue to tell us that they struggle to access these vital tests.
“Some members have told us they are concerned testing results are consistently delayed, inconclusive or even get lost.”
Mr Adams stressed the risk that a lack of testing would cause. “Without access to proper testing, and an efficient process that ensures results are turned around quickly, nursing staff, as well as those they care for, will be put at unnecessary risk,” he said.
Following a spike in coronavirus cases across the country, there has been widespread concern over a “backlog” of testing and of individuals being unable to access a test when needed.
Mr Adams, therefore, added that the “current situation with regard to processing Covid-19 tests needs to be urgently rectified”.
Also commenting on the letter, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “Testing is critical, but the bottom line is that the government’s testing regime is not working and not delivering the plans that the prime minister has set out.
“The bottom line is that the government’s testing regime is not working”
“As the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, Care England has always tried to work with [Department of Health and Social Care] and we are both in agreement that testing is key.”
The letter also noted that the department would “shortly publish” its Adult Social Care Winter Plan, setting out the “support and resources we will make available nationally, as well as describing the actions for local areas”.
Professor Green added that Care England “hope that the winter plan will be backed by a proper delivery process in order to provide much needed clarity”.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock gave an update on the testing situation and reiterated a rise of cases in care homes, as well as in hospitals.
Mr Hancock highlighted that on Monday there had been “around 2,600 new cases” and that “last week medical advisors advised R is above one”.
“There are signs that the number of cases in care homes and the number of hospitalisations is starting to rise again,” he said.
The health secretary went on to note that testing had a “vital part to play” in the pandemic.
“We’ve seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible,” he said.
“Throughout this pandemic we have prioritised testing according to need. Over the summer, when demand was low, we were able to meet all requirements for testing, whether priorities or not.
“But as demand has risen, so we are having to prioritise once again.”
He said that, while decisions around prioritisations were “not always comfortable”, they were “important”.
Mr Hancock said the “top priority” was acute clinical care and that the “next priority is social care”.
He claimed that the government was now sending over 100,000 tests a day, “because we’ve all seen the risks this virus poses in care homes”.
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