Matt Hancock vows to ramp up coronavirus testing in care homes to cover ALL staff and residents who have fallen ill
- The UK Health Secretary promised to test care home residents with symptoms
- Matt Hancock added that social care staff who need a test will now have access
- Only 505 care staff have been tested in comparison to 47,000 NHS workers
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Matt Hancock yesterday promised to dramatically ramp up coronavirus testing in care homes as it emerged barely 500 care workers have been tested so far.
The Health Secretary pledged that all care home residents who show symptoms of the disease would receive a test.
And for the first time, everyone released from hospitals into care homes will be tested, even if they show no signs of coronavirus.
Mr Hancock said all social care staff who need a test will now have access to one with the Care Quality Commission contacting all 30,000 care providers in the coming days.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock is pictured leaving No. 10 Downing Street after attending the daily Covid-19 Cobra meeting today
‘I am deeply conscious that people in residential care are among the most vulnerable to coronavirus,’ he said.
‘We are doing everything we can to keep workers, residents and their families safe, and I am determined to ensure that everyone who needs a coronavirus test should be able to have access to one.’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak assured carers that they had not been forgotten amid mounting questions over why coronavirus deaths in care homes had not been included in the official daily statistics.
Since tests for social care staff started at the weekend, only 505 have been screened. This compares with more than 47,000 for NHS staff and their families. Age UK said it was shocking that just one in 3,000 of the 1.5million care workers – including care home staff and home helps – had so far been tested.
A file photo shows an elderly man sitting on a wheelchair alone. The Health Secretary has pledged that all care home residents who show symptoms of the disease will receive a coronavirus test
Christina McAnea of Unison, which represents care workers, said: ‘The virus is sweeping through care homes at a terrifying rate. Care workers are on the front line, tending to the most vulnerable people. These testing levels are pitiful and a dramatic increase is urgently needed for everyone’s sake.’
Yesterday the PM’s spokesman said: ‘We are now using some of the available capacity to allow social care workers to be tested if they were concerned they had coronavirus symptoms and 505 social care workers have now been tested,’ he said. ‘That scheme has only very recently begun.’
The spokesman said it was unfair to compare the number of people being tested with the total number of social care workers.
He said: ‘The key point is these are tests which are available for people who have symptoms or are concerned they have coronavirus.’
But critics said the number of tests being carried out was nowhere near enough. Liz Kendall, Labour’s social care spokesman, said: ‘These are shocking figures. The Government urgently needs to get a grip on the emerging crisis in social care. Millions of elderly people up and down the country rely on the vital service that care workers provide.’
Testing is carried out yesterday at Leeds Temple Green Park and Ride, part of the government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS workers
Age UK’s Caroline Abrahams added: ‘We know now that only some 500 social care staff have been tested so far and there are almost one and a half million still to go. This is a total disaster because it means that sadly, the social care system is going to have to fight the virus for the foreseeable future without generally knowing who has had it and is “safe”, and who hasn’t and is still at risk.’
She added: ‘The problem is this leaves care providers “flying blind”, increasing the risk to older people and care workers alike that they will become infected.
‘It may also lead to some care workers self-isolating unnecessarily, piling pressure on other members of staff. Any hope that testing would save the day for social care as it confronts the deadly coronavirus has unfortunately been dashed.’
Speaking yesterday, Mr Sunak said: ‘I would say to all those people working in care homes up and down the country, whether it’s the people in them or the people looking after them – you absolutely haven’t been forgotten. When we clap every week we are clapping for people everywhere who are caring.’
Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, admitted the French and UK coronavirus figures are different because the French figures include care homes.