Lack of testing for people in supported living branded a ‘national disgrace’

It is a “national disgrace” that hundreds of thousands of people in supported living are not able to get regular coronavirus testing, a care sector leader has said.

Community Integrated Care chief executive Mark Adams told MPs that there were 850,000 people in supported living environments compared to 450,000 in care homes in the UK.

Speaking before the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus on Wednesday, Mr Adams (pictured) said many people in supported living were frail or had “many comorbidities”.

But they are not able to get tested for coronavirus unless they have symptoms, he told the APPG.

Mr Adams added: “What I think is a national disgrace is right the way throughout the whole crisis the 850,000 people in supported living environments, many of whom are frail or with many comorbidities, haven’t been able to get testing unless they have been symptomatic and that is still the case.

“At the moment there is no routine testing of staff in environments where Covid could be walking in through the door.”

Mr Adams said that testing was expected to be rolled out to supported living environments by late October or November.

He added: “The intention at this stage is that testing is purely for care homes so there’s 450,000 people living in care homes in the UK, there’s 850,000 people in supported living and at the moment there’s no testing protocol for the 850,000.

“There is an indication that by late autumn, maybe late October-November that we will look at some kind of testing protocol for that community, but at the moment we are looking into a second wave of Covid with no extra form of protection for people who work in that environment.”

Mr Adams said that more antibody testing was also needed in care homes to see if infection control measures were working properly.

He added: “It would be very, very useful for us to where we have a major outbreak to actually have a serology test for antibodies.

“Obviously at the aftermath of a major outbreak and many people passing away it would be very interesting to know whether our barrier nursing and cross-infection controls have actually contained it to the people that were affected or whether actually more or less the whole home of staff and residents got it but they were asymptomatic and survived it.”

A study earlier this month by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and North Norfolk Primary Care found that around half of care home residents who tested positive for Covid-19 were asymptomatic, but some went on to develop symptoms.

It said that in many cases symptoms were not typical and did not include a high temperature, cough or loss of smell and that residents who tested positive for Covid-19 often presented as generally unwell.

The APPG also heard that the cost of a second wave of Covid-19 would be an “age-related apartheid”.

Public health professor Gabriel Scally, who is also a member of Independent Sage, said that many elderly people were already “terrified” of the virus and a second wave would have an “enormous cost” on them.

He added: “I don’t think we will have a substantial second wave and I would hate to be proven wrong on that.

“The cost of that coming true will be an age-related apartheid in our society.

“I already see a lot of older people who are not going out, who are staying at home, maintaining social distancing, are keeping themselves to themselves, are quite frankly terrified of the virus.

“I think it should be possible to keep it under control, but it will be a very rocky, bumpy road I think, but the cost is enormous for older people.”

Prof Scally also told MPs that the decision to dismantle Public Health England (PHE) and replace it with a new National Institute for Health Protection was “ill-timed and ill-judged” and would cause disruption.

He added: “It is wrong to think that Public Health England as anything other than a creature of the Department of Health.

“If it hasn’t worked properly then that’s up to the Secretaries of State who have been in charge of it since it was created.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Community Integrated Care.