Local directors of public health have been asked to take charge of Covid-19 testing in English care homes in what is seen as a “tactic admission” that centralised attempts have failed.
In a letter to sector leaders, seen by the Guardian, the care minister, Helen Whately, acknowledged that testing of care home residents and staff needs to be “more joined up”.
Public health directors employed at a local level will now be responsible for arranging the testing of some 400,000 care home residents and 500,000 staff, in discussion with directors of adult social services, local NHS bodies and regional directors of Public Health England (PHE).
Lack of capacity
Care home leaders have welcomed the move, but a lack of capacity still remains a grave concern in the sector.
Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, representing not-for-profit care homes, said: “With almost a million people needing to be tested, and only 30,000 tests a day envisaged at best, what our members really want to know is when all this is going to be a reality.”
The Government missed its key 100,000 target for coronavirus tests for the sixth day in a row yesterday, highlighting “daily fluctuations” in availability.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said 97,029 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Friday, up from 86,583 the day before, at the daily Downing Street briefing on Friday.
Asked why the UK had not tested at capacity for six days in a row and about reported delays of up to 10 days in getting results back, Mr Eustice said: “If you have, as we do, 50 different sites offering drive-through tests you will get regional variances.
“You will get some days of surplus tests where people haven’t come forward to take them in some areas, and you will have other areas where you don’t have quite enough capacity for that local demand.”
Government response pushed coronavirus crisis from hospitals into care homes
A recent Reuters report found the Government’s response pushed coronavirus crisis from hospitals into care homes.
Policies designed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed pushed a greater burden onto the care sector.
With hospitals given priority by the government, care homes struggled to get access to tests and protective equipment.
The elderly were also put at potentially greater risk by measures to admit only the sickest for hospital treatment and to clear out as many non-acute patients as possible from wards.