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Care home residents and staff face five-week delay for routine COVID-19 test

2 months ago 16

The UK's largest independent provider of social care says it no longer has access to regular testing for staff and residents because of an issue with a supplier used by the government.

In a letter leaked to Sky News, Care UK chief executive Andrew Knight says there will be a minimum of five weeks before the firm is able to access another round of testing for most of its homes in England.

"We have been notified by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that due to an issue with a particular test from one supplier, we will no longer have access to weekly testing for colleagues or monthly testing for residents", says the care boss in a letter to residents.

"Communication from the government on this matter has been sorely lacking", he adds.

"I am sure many of you will find this situation as disappointing as I do, especially given the positive messages the government is still issuing about the scale of the testing programme it is supposedly offering."

The letter was leaked to Sky News by a concerned relative who described the government's treatment of care homes as "scandalous".

Care UK has confirmed that the letter is genuine.

The five week delay relates to asymptomatic testing of staff and residents; officials pointed out that regular tests for those with COVID-19 symptoms were still available with no wait.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

The department pledged at the start of July that care home staff would be given coronavirus tests every week and residents on a monthly basis.

A report published this week into the government's approach to social care during the COVID-19 crisis found care homes were "effectively thrown to the wolves".

Coronavirus deciding who dies care home doco Care homes were 'thrown to the wolves'

The assessment by the House of Commons' own spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, said social care sector had been left as a poor relation to the NHS.

The decision to discharge 25,000 hospital patients into care homes without ensuring they had been tested for the virus was an example of the government's "slow, inconsistent and at times negligent" approach to social care, the committee said.

It also described the move as being an "appalling error".

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Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: "Our care homes were effectively thrown to the wolves, and the virus has ravaged some of them."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is facing legal action over his claim that he placed a "protective ring" around care homes.

Dr Cathy Gardner, whose 88-year-old father Michael Gibson died of suspected COVID-19 in a care home, has demanded that Mr Hancock retracts the remark.

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