Home carers to get free weekly coronavirus tests from Monday to stop disease spreading among vulnerable adults
- Roll-out will mean any asymptomatic cases can be detected and isolated quickly
- Gives ‘peace of mind’ to carers and residents they are not spreading the virus
- Comes after weekly tests were offered to carers in homes for over-65s in July
Home carers will all be offered weekly testing for coronavirus from Monday, the Department of Health announced today.
Staff who give home visit care to elderly or vulnerable adults and are registered with the Care Quality Commission will be eligible for weekly swab tests, they said.
Health bosses said the move will give carers ‘peace of mind’ they aren’t carrying or spreading the disease among high risk groups.
All registered home care providers will be contacted with details on how to get the tests from next week. The tests will be sent to the carers’ personal homes to be taken there.
Staff working in care homes have been getting weekly swabs since July. But frontline NHS workers are still not being routinely checked for the virus.
The UK has the capacity to complete more than 500,000 coronavirus tests a day, according to the Government’s dashboard.
Care workers visiting people’s homes will be swabbed once a week for Covid-19. (stock)
COVID-19 VACCINES COULD BE AVAILABLE FOR ALL ADULTS BY JANUARY
Coronavirus vaccinations could be under way for everyone over the age of 18 in the UK by the end of January, leaked NHS plans show.
If a vaccine is approved on schedule the first doses are expected to become available next month and will first be given to people living in care homes and to the carers who look after them.
The jabs will then be prioritised according to age and general health, with healthy under-50s last in line.
But documents seen by the Health Service Journal suggest even those in the lowest risk group may be able to start getting vaccinated in just two months’ time if everything goes to plan.
The files say all pencilled-in dates for vaccines are dependent on the arrival of supplies – with up to seven million doses expected next month – and are based on NHS proposals to create huge GP-run facilities to deliver the shots.
Regulators are expected to approve at least one vaccine by the end of the year, with a £15-a-dose jab from Pfizer currently odds-on to be the first to get a licence.
The UK has ordered 40million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine – with the first batch set to arrive next month – and five million of Moderna’s – which are due in spring next year. It also has an order in place for up to 100million vials of Oxford’s candidate which scientists say should finish clinical trials by Christmas.
The Department of Health said home care agencies will be responsible for ordering and delivering weekly tests fpr tjeor staff, which should be completed every Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
A further expansion of weekly testing to live-in carers and personal assistants is planned, but a date is yet to be set for its roll out.
Announcing the expansion of testing to care workers visiting homes, the minister for care Helen Whately said: ‘Homecare workers have been doing an incredible job throughout the pandemic, caring day in and day out and going the extra mile to keep people they care for safe from Covid.
‘As our testing capacity continues to expand, I’m glad we’re able to take this next step and make regular testing available to Homecare workers. Now, as well as having PPE, Homecare workers will be able to take a weekly test to check they don’t have Coronavirus.
‘We now have the largest testing capacity in Europe, so we’re using this to protect those who are at greater risk if they catch Covid.’
Vic Rayner, director of the National Care Forum, said the roll-out was ‘very positive’ but that it is ‘extraordinary’ that the Government has taken so long to prioritise homecare workers.
She said: ‘Nine months into the pandemic we still have large parts of the sector including supported living, individual employers and of course visitors who to date have no access to regular testing.
‘This cannot be right – and whilst we welcome the testing of homecare staff – we urgently need the gaps in the safety net of social care testing to be plugged.’
More than 20,000 care home residents died from Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic, in part because asymptomatic workers were allowed to freely move between care homes without being tested for the disease.
Experts say homes employing bank staff, who work at more than one facility, were more at risk from the coronavirus because it provided an opportunity for the disease to jump from an infected home into others.
But they are now required to ask staff to sign ‘exclusive’ contracts barring them from working in more than one home.
Official figures last week showed more than 5,000 dementia patients died needlessly during lockdown – most of them in care homes.
Between March 7 and May 1, when blanket visiting bans were in place, the toll was 52 per cent higher than normal.
Over the past five years an average of 10,345 Britons died from dementia in the same eight-week period, according to the Office for National Statistics.
But this year the figure hit 15,749 – meaning there were 5,404 excess and potentially avoidable deaths.
The fatalities were not related to Covid – and another 13,840 dementia sufferers died from the virus from March to June. Up to 80 per cent of these 5,000 excess dementia deaths were in care homes.
Experts believe the prolonged social isolation in lockdown is likely to have contributed.
Isolation has been shown to accelerate the progression of dementia – for many the best medicine is the chance to hold the hand of the person they love.