The National Care Forum has written to Government ministers to express the importance of Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors having regular testing for COVID-19.
In an open letter to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Helen Whately Minister for Care, the National Care Forum (NCF) is calling for a reversal of the decision to allow CQC inspectors into care homes without testing for COVID-19. NCF suggests that excluding CQC inspectors - who will visit and inspect care services - from weekly testing is an extraordinary decision, which is not credible and which is very counter-productive.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the NCF says, 'We welcome scrutiny and oversight by the regulator and we all want the CQC to be able to regulate effectively. However, this must include routine regular testing for those inspectors tasked with conducting on-site inspection visits to care settings.'
By not testing CQC inspectors, who spend a number of hours on-site in care homes, moving between different groups of residents and staff, current policy to regularly test all staff will be undermined, says NCF. The inspectors will also potentially be visiting multiple homes and therefore have the potential to transmit the virus as part of their visits, both within and between care homes.
Care services have worked incredibly hard to make sure they have stringent infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, for those they support, for staff and for visitors, and regular COVID testing of those routinely working in care is a key part of these IPC measures to prevent inadvertent asymptomatic transmission of the virus.
Vic Rayner continues, 'Not providing regular testing for CQC inspectors is an extraordinary decision. For months, central government and the regulator have been requiring care homes to essentially eradicate the movement of staff and the flow of people, including close family relatives, into homes. Having done this, care homes are now being asked to let inspectors into homes without knowing whether or not they are COVID positive.
'Understandably they are both shocked and hugely concerned. If inspectors are coming in, they need to be tested – there should be no further debate about this. We recognise that testing capacity is always part of these decisions, but it seems likely that it will be a relatively small number of CQC staff who will be front facing and going into homes, so including them in routine regular testing will not have a significant impact on capacity. We call on government to reverse this decision and introduce weekly testing for inspectors immediately.'
The full letter can be read on the NCF website.