Care homes appeal for patience after new rapid result testing and visitor guidance announced

Care home providers have appealed for patience after the Government said a mass roll-out of rapid result tests would enable residents to receive visitors by Christmas.

More than a million lateral flow tests are being sent out to England’s 385 biggest care homes as part of the first phase, the Government announced on Tuesday.

It will enable relatives of care home residents in all tiers to visit loved ones if they test negative and the home has no outbreak.

But no detail has yet been given on how soon smaller care homes will receive the kits.

More information is expected shortly.

Care groups have warned that the new systems will take time and extra resources to introduce.

Mike Padgham, managing director of St Cecilia’s Care Group in North Yorkshire, said he has received calls following the announcement from relatives asking when they can see their loved ones.

He has had to tell them “not yet”.

Mr Padgham (pictured), who is also chairman of the Independent Care Group, said: “Yesterday’s news was excellent for all those families who have been apart from their loved ones for too long and every care and nursing home across the country will do its utmost to meet the arrangements the Government has announced.

“But this is going to be a huge undertaking and we appeal to families to be patient with their loved ones’ homes as they try to resume visiting as soon as they can.

“It is going to take time for the tests to reach all homes and then for staff to be trained up in the procedures needed to test relatives and then have them come into homes to see their family and friends.

“The public have shown amazing patience so far and we just appeal to them now to show a little more whilst we prepare for these long-awaited visits.”

MHA, a charity with 222 care homes and schemes across Britain, said it had “significant concerns” about the lack of resources provided to effectively deliver the tests.

The roll-out amounts to a quadrupling of testing across MHA’s 84 care homes in England each week (from around 7,125 to 28,100 a week), it said.

It estimates this will cost at least £700,000 up to the end of March.

MHA chief executive Sam Monaghan said: “It is a great step forward that the Government has listened to residents and their families kept apart during the pandemic and is making tests available.

“But to do so without providing the resources necessary is reckless.

“To carry out the volume of tests now required in care homes, we will need at least one more administrative staff member per home.

“We are talking about a considerable additional workload.

“The effect will be that frontline staff will be even further stretched with more time spent on testing, while continuing to deliver good quality care for our residents.”

Barchester Healthcare, which runs 214 care homes in England, said it is not expecting to have lateral flow tests available to test visitors to its homes until December 18.

A spokesman said: “We cannot wait to have visitors back in our homes and we welcome the latest announcements.

“However, behind the headlines today with the message of ‘visits allowed’ there is a lot more planning, analysis and logistics that need to be worked through to make this happen.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Care home residents in all tiers will have the chance to see their relatives before Christmas and homes across the country are arranging visits now.

“We have sent more than a million tests, provided free PPE and issued guidance to help bring families back together.

“It is critical visitors wear PPE and follow all infection control methods to keep their loved ones, other residents and staff safe.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Independent Care Group.