Coronavirus: Care homes ‘disappointed’ on test assurances

Testing being carried out at Claremont Court Care Home in NewportImage copyright

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Staff and residents at a care home in Newport are tested for Covid-19

Care homes in Wales are “disappointed” the Welsh Government has not given any assurances on whether weekly Covid-19 testing for staff will continue.

The testing policy in Wales’ care homes has been criticised as a Senedd health committee said homes account for almost a third of Welsh Covid-19 deaths.

A policy offering all care home staff a weekly test has ended and Care Forum Wales does not know of a new strategy.

The Welsh Government said its policy of testing staff was “under review”.

Care Forum Wales added care homes “are generally able to access testing” but have concerns of “significant delays” to the processing of tests.

The Senedd health committee also stated Wales’ care home testing policy at the start of the pandemic was “flawed” when testing was only offered to individuals with symptoms.

The Welsh Government extended testing to all care homes in May before a new policy was revealed in June to test care home staff once a week for four weeks.

But now test results are not being returned within target times more than half of the time.

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Care Forum Wales had said care homes have been turned into “coronavirus warzones”

In fact, almost 9% of coronavirus test results are taking three days – when the target is 24 hours.

“At the start of the pandemic, the issue was access to testing for care home staff and residents,” said Mary Wimbury, Care Forum Wales chief executive.

“Now care homes are generally able to access testing but concerns centre around the turnaround time for results.”

Care Forum Wales are “expecting a new testing policy to be unveiled this week” but they are “disappointed that there has been no engagement with the sector on this”.

“While we understand testing decisions will need to be based on the scientific evidence, we believe we could offer invaluable insights into how any new policy might work on the ground,” added Ms Wimbury.

Opposition parties have criticised the Welsh Labour government with Plaid Cymru saying they risk going “back to square one” while the Tories accuse the government of “dithering and indecision”.

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Care Home Wales said there were “significant delays” to the processing of Covid-19 tests

“It is completely unacceptable that there seems to be no plan in place to continue the weekly testing of care workers,” said Plaid MS Delyth Jewell.

“Failure to do so risks taking us back to square one.”

Conservative MS Janet Finch Saunders said: “It is now vital that the government consults the care home industry and both extends and ramps up testing for care home staff beyond its original four-week time frame.”

The Welsh Government said their next move is under review.

“We will assess the impact and consider next steps to ensure that we can continue to safeguard our care homes,” said a spokesperson.

BBC News