The National Care Forum (NCF) is calling for 200,000 Covid-19 tests a day to be made available to the care sector as a matter of priority amid claims of “chaotic” procedures and inaccurate results.

“Despite the government’s efforts to develop a testing programme for social care, the testing arrangements remain chaotic, there is no reliable timescale for getting the test results and there are simply not enough tests prioritised for social care. The announcement yesterday, that everyone aged over five in the UK with symptoms can now be tested for coronavirus, will only make this testing chaos worse,” said the NCF in a statement

A recent survey of NCF members revealed the testing process to be “chaotic” with processes differing widely depending on how local health teams interpret government guidance and their own local capacity for testing.

One member responding to the survey said there was widespread confusion over testing procedures and rules.

“There have been numerous changes to the staff testing process over the past six weeks which has made it very difficult to co-ordinate. Even though it has now been announced that all care staff can be tested, regardless of whether they are symptomatic, some organisations have still told us that we can only test staff who have symptoms,” they said.

Another pointed to the unreliability of some laboratory work.

“In one of our care homes, 17 resident tests came back ‘void’ because of a faulty machine at the lab. This meant that all of those residents had to be re-tested, which was concerning. We have also received test results from other care homes not in our group, and have received results for an individual with the correct surname but incorrect forename. This is very concerning as it makes us question the validity of the results we are receiving,” they said.

Vic Rayner, NCF executive director, called for far greater and more reliable testing to be made available to the care sector.

“We need to see at least 200,000 routine and regular tests each day in the care sector alone. The speed and quality of the testing process is currently a postcode lottery and doesn’t appear to be based on need. Some of our members are being told they won’t be tested until 6 June which is much too late. We need to see an improvement in the quality and accuracy of the testing process and analysis so we can make proper use of the results,” she said.

The NCF represents providers who employ 43,152 staff supporting 16,240 residents in care homes. Of these 3,466 staff and 4,619 residents have been tested between 23 April and 14 May.

Date published: May 20, 2020

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