**UPDATED 20:30 5.6.20** – We have updated this press release to reflect the extension of the whole home testing regime to all adult care homes.

The National Care Forum welcomes the announcement that whole home testing will be offered to a wider range of care settings, including specialist learning disability and mental health care homes, from Sunday 7 June.

The initial promise of whole home testing was accompanied by a pledge that all care homes for over-65s would be offered testing by 6 June. The National Care Forum (NCF) has surveyed its members to gain an understanding of the experience of whole home testing amongst our members in the run up to the deadline. We had responses relating to 264 care homes who catered for people over 65.

As of 2/6/20, 87% of these care homes have been tested while the remaining 13% are still waiting to receive home testing kits. This bodes well for the prospects of the government meeting its 6 June target.

The whole home testing programme still faces significant challenges in terms of accuracy and timeliness of test results. Our survey showed that 43% of care homes tested received test results which included void and inconclusive results. Furthermore, 12% are still waiting for results.

Our findings also offer some useful insight into the trends relating to asymptomatic and symptomatic residents and staff:

  • The majority of respondents indicated that between 0% and 10% of staff who tested positive were asymptomatic.
  • The majority of respondents indicated that between 0% and 10% of residents who tested positive were asymptomatic, with a significant minority of respondents reporting a higher range of between 40% and 60%
  • The majority of respondents indicated that between 30% and 60% of residents who had symptoms tested positive

These trends emphasise the fundamental need for routine, regular testing across all care settings to enable us to win the battle against COVID-19. We need to test regularly – we would recommend weekly drawing on evidence identified in international research* – as the numbers of asymptomatic staff and residents testing positive illustrate. This will also enable us to establish clearly which of those residents who are showing symptoms are actually COVID-19 positive and which aren’t.

To date the whole home testing programme has only been able to guarantee one round of testing in each home. It’s very clear that, as the NCF has been saying for months, the programme must now move to regular testing across all care settings – not just care homes – in order to be able to track the spread of COVID-19 and effectively mitigate against it.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum says:

“Testing of all those receiving care and the staff delivering it has been recognised as an absolute priority. Our survey results highlight some key lessons that we have learnt from this first round of testing in terms of accuracy, timeliness and frequency. It is clear that there is a need to improve the accuracy and timeliness of the results from testing to enable social care providers to respond quickly to manage and prevent COVID-19 infections.

Our findings also highlight key insights into the number of COVID-19 positive tests in asymptomatic staff and residents which emphasises why it is absolutely vital that we move to regular and repeat testing as it is an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19.

The findings related to the proportion of symptomatic residents who are not testing positive reinforces the need for regular, repeat testing to avoid unnecessary isolation and the impact this has on the mental health and wellbeing of residents.

We welcome the positive step the government is taking today with its announcement that it will be rolling out whole care home testing with plans to extend the testing to a wider range of care settings.”

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