Homecare workers will be offered weekly coronavirus tests from next week.
Providers registered with the Care Quality Commission will receive weekly PCR tests to administer at home, which aims to help identify more asymptomatic cases and protect service users who are more vulnerable to the virus.
The expansion to homecare workers is the next phase of the government’s rollout of mass testing across the country.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said: ‘As our testing capacity continues to expand, I’m glad we’re able to take this next step and make regular testing available to homecare workers. Now, as well as having PPE, homecare workers will be able to take a weekly test to check they don’t have coronavirus.’
Homecare agencies will be contacted with details of how to apply for test kits next week. Providers will be responsible for ordering and distributing tests to all homecare workers for them to conduct at home on a weekly basis, testing on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Testing will be expanded further to include live-in carers and personal assistants in a phased rollout, the government said.
Colin Angel, policy director at United Kingdom Homecare Association, said: ‘Until now, routine testing of asymptomatic homecare workers has not been available. This was largely supported by evidence from a prevalence survey, showing that transmission rates of the virus amongst homecare workers was similar to the general population. This is unlike the much higher prevalence rates amongst staff working in care homes.
‘The availability of routine testing will be welcomed by many, particularly members of the public who have been concerned about the risk of transmission from care workers visiting their home.
‘This winter brings a combination of seasonal pressures which occur every year, compounded with staff absences, including self-isolation. An unintended consequence of asymptomatic testing, is the possibility of staff being required to self-isolate as a result of a false positive test result, stretching workforce capacity even further.’
Social Care Institute for Excellence chief executive Kathryn Smith said: ‘Throughout the pandemic we have been pointing out that social care isn’t just about care homes, vitally important though they are.
‘This development will be really helpful to those in the care workforce who go into people’s homes: Regular testing will give them reassurance and confidence that they can do their jobs in a more secure manner. This will also provide relief to the people who access care at home – and to their relatives. This is a most welcome development.’
Earlier this week, findings from a National Care Forum survey showed that while there was a low incidence of testing failure among its members, speed of obtaining results remained an issue. Only 24% of respondents received test results within 48 hours.