Scottish Care calls for changes to testing regime

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The representative body of the independent care sector in Scotland is calling for whole Covid-19 testing of staff to be taken over directly by the government north of the border.

Scottish Care said it had become ‘increasingly evident’ there had been disruption and delay of the weekly staff testing regime required of care homes.

It said through Health and Social Care Partnership forums, telephone calls and emails, providers had been highlighting concerns over delays in receiving test results, with many returned as inconclusive.

In a statement, Scottish Care said since the second week in August there had been a gradual slowing down in the time taken for test results to be returned. It has increased from a 1–3 day waiting period initially to a ‘very high level’ of around 5 and 6 days and, in some cases, 7-10 days for tests that were undertaken the week beginning 24 August.

While this can be connected to the opening of schools across the country, the organisation said it also related to ‘problems directly associated’ with the UK government social care portal.

The whole care home testing portal was launched on 11 May to enable care homes to arrange deliveries of test kits.

However, Scottish Care said staff were being asked to undertake another test while not having received the results of their previous one. ‘This understandably has generated a lack of faith in the integrity, resilience and rigour of the national testing programme which in turn puts at risk their commitment to undergoing tests,’ it said.

The representative body said the weekly testing regime was critical in protecting residents from staff who may be unknowingly carrying the virus and that a robust regime was required to enable family members to visit their relatives in care homes.

It said: ‘The UK portal system has been unresponsive to the needs of the care sector in Scotland. We now believe that it would be in the best interests of both staff and residents if the whole testing of staff was taken over directly by Scottish government.’

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Across NHS Test and Trace we are delivering over a million tests a week, and kits for retesting in the adult social care sector are being supplied to care homes with older residents and those with dementia.

‘There is a high demand for tests and our laboratories continue to turn test results around as quickly as possible and we plan to rapidly expand it in the coming weeks as well as bringing in new technology to process tests faster.’