Health secretary pledges to boost coronavirus testing in care homes

Health secretary pledges to boost coronavirus testing in care homes

The health secretary has promised to expand the availability of testing for the Covid-19 virus in care homes after concerns were raised about current levels.

Under new promises made by the government, every resident or staff member who displays symptoms of the disease - which include a fever, persistent dry cough, fatigue and shortness of breath - will be able to receive a test to determine if they have the virus.

Until now, only the first five residents who show symptoms in a care home are tested, in order to determine whether there is an outbreak of the virus. 

However, Matt Hancock has said he is "determined to ensure that everyone who needs a coronavirus test should be able to have access to one" and as lab testing capabilities have been expanding every day, this will allow all care home residents and staff to get a test.

The health secretary said: "Testing is key in our battle against coronavirus, and as part of our plan to prevent the spread and save lives we will ensure that everyone in social care who needs a test can have a test."

Efforts to boost testing in care homes will be coordinated by the Care Quality Commission, which has already offered 6,000 care facilities the opportunity to test their staff. By the end of the week, the organisation will have contacted all 30,000 care providers it covers.

The Department of Health and Social Care also confirmed that testing will be provided to all potential care home residents who have been in hospital before they are discharged.

"This will provide reassurance and peace of mind to residents and family members, and will help care providers to take appropriate action to ensure that social care workers and other residents are safe – including implementing isolation procedures for those who test positive," the department stated.

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, was among those to welcome the news, saying that homes will be in a "much better position to face this virus head on once they have been able to test both their staff, residents and new residents who have been discharged from hospital into their care homes".