Covid-19 test with 20-minute result may allow for relatives to visit loved ones in care homes

A Covid-19 test which can give results in 20 minutes may mean relatives could visit loved ones in care homes, the chief executive of Care England has said.

Professor Martin Green told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee that access to testing has been “patchy”, and called for a clearer, more centralised system.

He also highlighted the potential of a rapid coronavirus test which is currently being piloted.

Prof Green (picture), whose organisation represents independent care providers, said the test could allow external visitors after care homes closed their doors early in the outbreak.

He said: “I also want to see, for example … there is one programme going on in Hampshire at the moment where you can get test results within about 20 minutes.

“Now what we need is that testing rolled out because that will also help us not only be able to test staff and residents, but also to be able to test relatives who might want to visit.”

The pilot of the rapid swab test began in Hampshire last month after it proved effective in clinical settings.

The swab test is being used in a number of A&E departments, GP testing hubs and care homes in the county.

Rather than being sent to a lab for testing, the loop-mediated isothermal amplification (Lamp) swab can be processed on site.

This is different from the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests which need to be processed at different temperatures, meaning it takes longer to get results.

Announcing the trial in May, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This new test could provide accurate results almost on the spot.

“This could change the way that we control Covid-19 across the country, getting those with negative results back into society as quickly as possible.”

Prof Green later stressed the need for regular testing for any system to be effective.

He said: “I think we’ve got to get testing as part of an ongoing programme – it is not a once- in-a-lifetime activity, it’s something that needs to happen regularly.”

MPs also heard that care home and domiciliary care staff feel like the “underdogs and the Cinderellas” compared with members of the NHS, and that testing in home care settings has been limited.

Jane Townson, chief executive at the UK Homecare Association, told MPs: “Because testing capacity has been limited, home care has been at the bottom of the priority list so people receiving home care were never even on the list.”

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