Family members or friends of those living in care homes will be given regular testing to reunite them with their loved ones, the Government has announced.
The pilot, which launches today, is taking place in around 20 care homes across Hampshire, Cornwall, and Devon and, according to The Department of Health and Social Care, will be rolled out more widely in December in time for Christmas. The pilot is taking place in local authorities with lower transmission rates to ensure it can be done as safely as possible.
Regular testing will be offered to one family member or friend per resident, which, when combined with other infection control measures such as PPE, will support meaningful visits to take place, including (where possible) indoor visits without a screen, while reducing the risk to care home residents, staff and visitors.
Visitors will be offered either PCR tests which they can do at home, or the new 30-minute rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs) which can be administered in person at care homes before a visit. Each care home receiving lateral flow tests will receive a box of 675 initially and will be given access to more as required.
The pilot, which forms part of plans to roll out mass testing technology across the country, has been made possible due to an expansion in the country’s testing capacity, which currently stands at over 500,000 per day. Care staff are being trained to ensure tests are administered safely and accurately.
The Department of Health and Social care says the pilot will further develop the evidence base for how testing with fast, reliable COVID-19 tests can be delivered at scale.
If successful, care home testing will be rolled out in a phased way across the country. Any decision on a national rollout will be taken in light of the latest available data on transmission rates as a result of national COVID-19 restrictions.
Exact details of the national rollout are said to be published in due course and will be guided by the pilot. It is anticipated the lateral flow tests will be used across the country to support rapid access. If these faster tests work in this setting, the Government will ring fence supply to open up more chances for visiting.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said, ‘As Christmas approaches, I want to bring an end to the pain of separation and help care homes bring families and loved ones together. The launch of visitor testing is a crucial step to making that happen.’
Read the latest published guidance on visiting care homes.
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