From Monday (23 Nov) registered carers looking after people in their own homes will be able to access weekly Covid-19 tests.
The roll-out markers the next stage in the government’s expansion of mass testing.
Those working for CQC-registered providers will receive weekly PCR tests to administer at home, which will help recognise more asymptomatic cases and protect care users who are more vulnerable to the virus.
Systematic testing will give workers peace of mind by picking up on any asymptomatic transmission and shield those they care for.
The development of testing to homecare workers is the next phase in the roll-out of mass testing across the country, and has been made possible by the huge increase in testing capacity in recent weeks.
Nearly 35 million tests have now been administered in the UK since the service began and this week the government announced 2 new ‘megalabs’, which will add a further 600,000 to daily UK testing capacity in early 2021.
Testing asymptomatic individuals helps to find those who unknowingly have the virus and enables those who test positive and their contacts to self-isolate. This is vital for breaking the chains of the virus spreading further.
All registered homecare agencies will be contacted with details of how to apply for test kits for their carers next week. Homecare agencies will be responsible for obtaining and handing out tests to all homecare workers, in order for them to conduct the tests at home on a weekly basis, testing on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. This approach will maximise capacity available in our laboratories.
Testing to all other homecare workers, such as live-in carers and personal assistants will be rolled out in phases.
A month’s work of test kits will be delivered to care providers directly who can distribute tests to their staff using the same channels used to distribute PPE.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “Homecare workers have been doing an incredible job throughout the pandemic, caring day in and day out and going the extra mile to keep people they care for safe from COVID.
“As our testing capacity continues to expand, I’m glad we’re able to take this next step and make regular testing available to homecare workers. Now, as well as having PPE, homecare workers will be able to take a weekly test to check they do not have coronavirus.
“We now have the largest testing capacity in Europe, so we’re using this to protect those who are at greater risk if they catch COVID.”
Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said: “NHS Test and Trace has worked tirelessly to increase capacity for testing, achieving its target of capacity for 500,000 tests by the end of October. This is testament to a huge amount of work up and down the country by unsung heroes in labs, distribution centres, test centres and manufacturing plants.
“I am delighted that this capacity means that we can now roll out regular, weekly testing to our domiciliary care staff. This has long been a priority for us and it will ensure greater protection to this vital, often unseen, workforce and the people they care for."