A new social care COVID-19 taskforce has been set up as Government announces whole care home testing shall be extended to all care homes.
Every adult care home in England is now able to access coronavirus testing for all residents and staff, whether or not anyone is displaying symptoms.
Until now, specific, whole care home testing has only been available regardless of symptoms to homes supporting people aged over 65 and homes supporting people with dementia. Care home providers can access testing via an online portal. In addition, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is contacting all care homes to highlight this service and encourage tests to be ordered.
Government has also set up a new taskforce, with representatives from across both government and the care sector. It will be chaired by David Pearson, Social Care COVID-19 Lead for the NHS and past President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).
The new taskforce will help oversee the implementation of the government’s social care action plan and care home support package to help end transmission of the virus in the community and will advise on a plan to support the sector through the next year. It is made up of representatives from Public Health England, Care Quality Commission, Care Provider Alliance, Local Government Association, ADASS, Healthwatch England, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Cabinet Office and DHSC.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately, said, 'Care homes are on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19 and we are determined that staff have everything they need to keep themselves and their residents safe.
'Opening up whole care home testing...regardless of symptoms, means we can prevent and control outbreaks and protect the most vulnerable.'
David Pearson CBE, Chair of the social care COVID-19 taskforce, said, 'This taskforce will support the service by overseeing the delivery of the social care action plan and the care homes intensive support package.
'This will play an important part in ensuring we are doing everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the sector, both for those who rely on care and support and the social care workforce.'
Vic Rayner, Executive Director, National Care Forum stated, 'Testing of all those receiving care and the staff delivering it has been recognised as an absolute priority. It is very positive the Government is moving forward with plans to extend the testing across all care homes, and it is vital that we set out a timeline to ensure that everyone who receives care gets access to regular and repeat testing as it is proving to be an absolutely essential tool in the fight against COVID-19.
'I welcome the announcement of a social care taskforce that will bring together the multiple strands of work that have been developed to address the impact of COVID-19 on those receiving social care. This taskforce will provide a real opportunity for all partners to work together to ensure a co-ordinated focus on the core essential of managing this virus, and bring energy and attention to the way in which COVID-19 is impacting social care now – and critically in planning and preparation for the future.'
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England commented, 'Care England welcomes the announcement of whole home testing which will help care provides to identify who is COVID-19 positive and we will be able to support people appropriately.'
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said, 'The creation of this taskforce to support social care should mark the first step in tackling the gulf between health and social care, a gulf which has always been there but which has been cruelly exposed during this pandemic.
'However, we have had false dawns before. If this is to mean anything we need commitments from Government to reform social care by bringing health and care together and funding social care, not with emergency handouts but with a sustainable and guaranteed programme of investment. And in this National Carers week, it is long past time when paid and unpaid carers had their contribution recognised and supported.'
Independent Care Group's Chair, Mike Padgham said, 'An expert-led taskforce is something we have called for for many years, as a way to take social care forward.
'We are delighted to see this new taskforce announced and hope it works swiftly to not only help everyone who is looked after by social care through coronavirus, but also to look at the whole future of social care and guide it into a more sustainable future, with better funding and parity with the NHS.'
Skills for Care's Chief Executive, Oonagh Smyth also commented, saying, 'This taskforce will build on the huge surge in the public’s understanding and appreciation of what social care is, and the sacrifices the people working in social care have made as they have tackled this unprecedented national crisis to support the people they work with.'