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Charities warn ‘less than half’ of care home residents tested for coronavirus – as government claims it is ‘on course’ to meet target

'Less than half' of care home residents tested for coronavirus – but ministers insist they are on course to meet target

4 min read

Fewer than half of care home residents have been tested for coronavirus, charities say – but ministers insist they are on course to meet their target of testing everyone in an over-65 setting by Saturday.

Age UK, which represents elderly people, said just under half of residents and around a third of residents and care workers combined have been tested for Covid-19.

And it said it did not see how the Government’s pledge “can possibly be met”.

Director Caroline Abrahams said: “Unfortunately, we are still hearing of problems for some care home residents and staff in accessing tests, in carrying them out and in getting back the results in a timely fashion.

“It sounds so simple to get this testing regime working well in care homes, but in reality its quite complicated and each of a sequence of steps has to be correctly executed, or the overall process fails.”

Since the UK outbreak began earlier this year, 12,726 deaths in care homes have been attributed to Covid-19 - 26% of all deaths recorded and double the number that would usually be expected at this time of year.

Ms Abrahams said she believed those at the centre of the government’s testing programme were “working incredibly hard to drive improvements” but that there is still “a long way to go”.

She added: “It seems unlikely that the original target of getting everyone in care homes tested by the coming weekend can possibly be met - but what really matters is that we keep at it and redouble our efforts to get there as soon as we possibly can.

“Ideally, for as long as the virus is still a menace in our country home residents and staff need to be tested successfully and often, to help them keep it at bay."

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister, said the Government had been too slow to get to grips with the spread of the virus in care setting.

“The widespread testing of care home residents and staff has already come too late and the Government must do all they can to meet their deadline,” she told PoliticsHome.

“Supporting people in care homes must be an absolute priority and the Government must give social care the focus, resources and support it needs to stop the spread of this awful virus. We must also see regular, repeated testing of care home residents and staff to prevent a second wave of infections in care homes.”

Ms Kendall said ministers should implement a sustained, regular testing programme in care homes as part of its national testing strategy.


Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s claim the Government had “thrown a protective ring around care homes” had been shown to be “hogwash”.

“They made a choice and left care homes to fend for themselves,” she said.

“The impact of this has meant thousands of deaths and thousands of relatives fighting a virus, without their families and relatives waiting by the phone every day for result on a test. 

“The government threw some of the most vulnerable people in our community to the wolves, leaving care home staff without PPE and did it all without a second thought.”

Professor Martin Green, CEO of Care England, which represents providers across England, said testing is “really patchy” and that ministers’ focus should not be solely on the over-65s.

“But the main point is that care homes need routine testing rather than one-off testing,” he added. 

“We are getting mixed reports depending on area or region but the main issue, aside from lack of routine testing, is that people with learning disabilities and/or autism have been left out of the equation.”

Evidence shows people with underlying health conditions of all ages are more at risk if they contract coronavirus.

“Routine testing for all residents and staff in adult social care is what we need,” Prof Green said. 

“As and when visiting resumes, wide scale accurate testing becomes even more important.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the Government was “on course” to offer tests to every care home for the over-65s by June 6.

“We have prioritised up to 50,000 tests a day for care home residents and asymptomatic staff and of those we are prioritising testing for homes that specialise in caring for older people and those living with dementia in line with Public Health England and SAGE advice. They will all have had the chance to be tested by early June,” they added.

“Since the start of the pandemic nearly 213,000 workers in care settings and over 192,000 care home residents have been tested through DHSC and PHE testing routes. We’ve set up an online care home portal to make booking tests for staff and residents even easier.”

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