In a bid to increase care home testing, £149m has been made available in a new Government grant.
According to the UK Government, the money will be made available early this year and will be distributed via local authorities. Allocations of the grant are also said to be announced early this year.
The grant will cover the infrastructure costs of the expanded testing programme including setting up safe testing areas, resource costs including gaining consent for tests, supervising the use of PPE and swab tests, and then processing and logging the results. Funds can also be used for staff training and for staff time.
As part of the aim to reduce the transmission of the virus and to increase testing capacity, the Government has made the following changes to testing:
- Two lateral flow device (LFD) tests to be added to weekly staff testing in care homes. This means that staff will do a PCR and a LFD test on day 1 and an additional LFD mid-week.
- LFD test to be taken before shifts for any staff who need to work in more than one location to deliver safe staffing levels.
- LFD test to be taken before shifts for staff who have been away from work and missed their weekly test.
- When any resident or staff member has a positive PCR or LFD, each member of staff should do a daily LFD test for seven days and preferably at the start of shifts.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director at National Care Forum said, 'The £149m extra funding from government is definitely welcome news. This is urgently needed to support the extra testing and comes after several months of intense discussion about the very practical difficulties of the exponential expansion of on-site testing in care homes and the very significant additional resource this requires. It is an important acknowledgment by government of the very significant pressures that increasing the use of rapid LFD tests will bring to care homes who are already stretched to the limit with all the additional work that operating in a COVID-19 world has created.
'The government must now ensure that all care homes have their LFD tests in place as a matter of urgency, if care homes are to make the additional testing happen. At this moment, despite national roll out, we know that a number of care homes have yet to receive their LFD tests and this must be resolved immediately.
'The funding for testing is an important step forward, but it is unlikely to be sufficient to close the gap and we will continue to need government to have those receiving care and support, and working in the sector, front and centre of their decision making as we venture into the unknowns of 2021.'
Since the full national lockdown announcement on Monday 4th January, visits to care homes can still take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed. Care homes which are facing an outbreak will not be able to receive visitors, apart from in exceptional circumstances such as end of life. Care homes will need to manage the number of visits to ensure they can enable safe visiting and the programme will be continuously reviewed by the Government.
Providers can check the guidance on visiting care homes during COVID-19 to find out how visits should be conducted. Residents cannot meet people indoors on a visit out (for example, to visit their relatives in the family home). There is separate guidance for those in supported living.
In addition, a new summary of the evidence for Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) in relation to care homes and based on research by PHE Porton Down, University of Oxford, University of Liverpool and the DHSC is available.
The following hospitals in England have started delivering the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the rollout to hundreds of GP-led services later in the week.