Call to reverse ‘extraordinary’ decision to allow inspectors into care homes without weekly testing

A care provider group is calling on the Government to reverse an “extraordinary” decision to allow health inspectors into care homes without regular coronavirus testing.

The National Care Forum (NCF) wants Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors to be included in weekly routine testing prior to on-site visits.

The group, which represents 120 of the UK’s social care charities, said the current policy is “not credible” and “very counter-productive”.

Without weekly testing, they fear inspectors moving between different groups of residents and staff, visiting potentially multiple homes, could help transmit the virus within and between them.

The NCF has written an open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Care Minister Helen Whately, calling on them to reverse the decision.

Vic Rayner (pictured), NCF executive director, said: “For months central government and the regulator have been requiring care homes to essentially eradicate the movement of staff and the flow of people, including close family relatives, into homes.

“Having done this, care homes are now being asked to let inspectors into homes without knowing whether or not they are Covid-positive.

“Understandably they are both shocked and hugely concerned. If Inspectors are coming in, they need to be tested – there should be no further debate about this.”

She acknowledged there may be issues with testing capacity, but said including the “relatively small number” of CQC inspectors going into homes would not have any significant impact.

In an update to adult social care providers and professionals on August 14, the CQC said the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) had assessed that their inspectors “do not meet the criteria for weekly asymptomatic testing”.

It acknowledged providers’ concerns, but said this was decided because inspectors are not required to undertake “hands-on, closer personal contact” with staff or residents.

Methodist Homes (MHA), which has 222 care homes and schemes across the UK, said it has set its own criteria for all outside visitors while it waits for a change in policy.

Chief executive Sam Monaghan said: “The decision to allow CQC inspectors, or indeed any healthcare professional, into care homes without a recent negative test is dangerous and flies in the face of the learning about the risk of transmission from staff moving between homes.”

He continued: “Half of Covid deaths have been from a cohort of around 400,000 elderly people in care homes, the other half from over 67 million people in the general population.

“That’s why we and other care providers are standing firm on this issue. The protection of our residents and staff is paramount and we will not allow what we can only assume are testing capacity issues to compromise the integrity of our infection control protocols.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Staff and patients across the health and social care sector are our priority and we continue to follow the latest clinical advice to ensure their safety.

“Regular asymptomatic testing is available where personal contact is required for staff to care for patients across health and care home settings.

“CQC inspectors are not required to make personal contact and are protected by Infection Prevention and Control Training, safety inspections before visits and PPE.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Youtube.