Repeat testing in care homes

June 25, 2020

Repeat testing is to be carried out in some care homes as part of a new Government initiative to understand more about COVID-19.

Approximately 10,000 people in care homes will be given the repeat testing as more information is sought on how the virus spreads in these settings.

The study will take place across over 100 care homes in England with swab tests (known as PCR tests) to determine if a person currently has the virus, and blood (antibody) tests for all consenting staff and residents over the next year.

This repeat testing in care homes forms part of Pillar 4 of the Government’s COVID-19 testing strategy to conduct UK-wide surveillance testing to learn more about the spread of the virus.

Minister for Care Helen Whately said, 'We know care homes are on the frontline of our fight against coronavirus, with the virus affecting older people more acutely than the general population. Not only will this study provide important reassurance to thousands of residents and staff, it will also build our understanding of the rate of infection in care homes and add to our knowledge about the risk factors that mean the virus can affect individuals differently.'

This information will help inform future Government strategy on the ongoing response to the virus, including lockdown and social distancing measures. The first results from initial participants are expected to be available in July.

The research, carried out in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care, University College London (UCL) and NHS Data Foundry, will draw on results from whole care home testing and previous studies to build a more comprehensive picture of how outbreaks play out over time within the same home.

Dr Laura Shallcross of UCL Institute of Health Informatics said, 'This study will provide unique insights into the proportion of care home staff and residents who have already been infected with COVID-19, and the proportion with an antibody response. We will also collect detailed information from care homes to try and understand why some care homes have had outbreaks and others have not. Taken together, this information will be used to inform the pandemic response in care homes, and protect residents and staff from becoming infected with COVID-19 in the future.'

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England responded to the announcement of repeat testing in care homes, saying, 'Care homes are the front line and this opportunity is welcome. This study is absolutely critical if we are to win the battle against COVID-19. There is still so much to learn about this virus; why some care homes have tested positive whilst displaying no symptoms or deaths and others have felt the full force of the brutality of this silent killer. The Government’s study will help us understand the way in which this virus operates thus enabling us to be better prepared today, tomorrow and in the future.'

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