Expansion of COVID-19 testing in care settings

09 Jun 2020

At the government’s daily COVID-19 briefing yesterday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a further expansion of its testing programme for COVID-19 in care settings.   Previously the focus had been on care homes providing care for over 65s and for those with dementia.  Testing will now be available for all residents and staff in England whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19.  Testing will also be extended to under 65s and to encompass for example adults with a learning disability or with mental health problems. 

The government has also set up a taskforce with representatives from the care sector and government to help oversee the government’s plan to end transmission of COVID-19 for all those in receipt of care. 

Under questioning from the media, Mr Hancock insisted it was safe for new residents to move into care homes and that the epidemic of COVID-19 in care homes was being brought under control. 

Last week we reported on our blog that data from the CQC showed in April and May an increase in deaths of adults with learning disabilities and/or autism in comparison to the same period in 2019.  That appeared to be mainly due to deaths from COVID-19. We would hope that yesterday’s announcement regarding increased testing will help to stem the transmission of COVID-19 in care settings for learning disabilities. 

What yesterday’s announcement doesn’t cover specifically however is testing provision for the domiciliary care sector. Domiciliary care workers can self refer for a COVID-19 test if they are suffering symptoms.   It’s unclear what the testing position is with people who receive care at home and whether they can have a Covid19 test even if they do not have symptoms. We await to se whether testing will be extended in this area. 

Increased testing is likely to pick up previously unknown transmissions of COVID-19.  What this may mean in terms of claims is a wait and see. Clearly there will be arguments that these steps should have been taken much sooner. 

Further information on this announcement can be found here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/whole-home-testing-rolled-out-to-all-care-homes-in-england

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