Care homes testing set to fall well short of June target

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Published in The Telegraph

Only 6 per cent of residents undergo tests in past week with just seven days until Government deadline

The Government is set to miss its own target to test every care home resident, The Telegraph can reveal, as new data shows that just six per cent of residents have had the coronavirus test in the last week.

During the daily Downing Street briefing on May 15, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “We will test every resident and every member of staff in our elderly care homes in England between now and early June”.

Almost 15,000 care residents are suspected to have died of covid-19, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.

Academics at the London School of Economics (LSE) suggest the figure is more like 22,000 – equating to one in 20 care home residents. Healthcare professionals warn the true figure is even higher.

Despite the Government’s pledge to test all care home residents, new data estimates that only 6% of care home residents were tested in the last week.

The Telegraph has seen anonymised Covid-19 testing data from The Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) and Person Centred Software (PCS).

PCS offers real time management information systems to the care home sector which also provides data for Care England, the leading representative body for care suppliers. It also collates live care-related data from more than 52,000 of the 410,000 care home residents, equating to roughly 13 per cent.

The analysis also shows that 40 per cent of care homes have had no residents tested since the epidemic began.

In total, 21 per cent of care home residents have received a test, but only 1 per cent have received more than one test, since March 18.

However, more promisingly, the data also showed that the daily average percentage of care home residents testing positive or having symptoms peaked at 5 per cent on May 8 and appears to be declining.

Responding to the figures, Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “While this new data gives us real hope that deaths in care homes have now peaked, the number of care home residents and staff who have been tested remains extremely low.

“If testing is the route out from the devastation that the virus has caused then it’s crucial that all care home residents and staff are tested, and as quickly as possible.

“Behind all the care home death statistics are real older people whose lives were tragically cut short, and families and friends left to carry on knowing that in other circumstances their loved ones may have survived. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact this has had on care staff of experiencing so much loss in such a short space of time. They too will carry the wounds, some of them forever.

“For now the priority has to be to do everything possible to properly protect older people in receipt of care, and save their lives. When it is all over however serious questions will need to be asked about how such a catastrophe was able to occur. Lessons must be learned so this can never happen again.”

The data relates to the period from March 18 to May 21. There is no equivalent up-to-date information on the sector as a whole because more than half of the homes have no detailed, timely or automated data collection.

Simon Briscoe, Director of T-DAB said: “It is worrying that we have no evidence of a real increase in testing of care home residents in the last week even though we are only nine days from the end of month target set by the government for every care receiver to be tested.”

Eric Topham, CEO of T-DAB added: “The data provides a granular view of the state of suspected cases, testing, infection, and deaths in care homes. The insights from the Person Centred Software data will allow government, home owners, carers, residents and their families to see the progress being made with Covid-19 testing in care homes.”

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have the capacity to deliver up to 30,000 tests a day for whole care home testing and are currently prioritising care homes and areas with greatest need

“We are testing all care workers and residents, whether they have symptoms or not, and as of 20 May, nearly 125,000 workers in care settings and over 118,000 care home residents have been tested through DHSC and PHE testing routes. We have now launched the online portal to make booking tests for staff and residents even easier.”

Read The Telegraph article here

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