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The government has failed to keep its promise to provide weekly coronavirus tests for staff working in care homes, according to a leading provider of health and social care and care homes.
Care UK has been told there will be a five-week wait before another round of testing is available.
At the start of July, the government had announced plans for the roll-out of weekly tests for staff at care homes for older people, and monthly tests for residents.
However, in a letter sent to relatives of residents in the company’s care homes and seen by Nursing Times, chief executive Andrew Knight said the provider was “finding it increasingly difficult to access regular testing across all of our homes”.
He said the organisation had previously been “pleased about the growing momentum behind the programme of weekly testing” but said that “unfortunately this optimism was short-lived”.
According to Care UK, the Department of Health and Social care had informed the organisation that “due to an issue with a particular test from one supplier, we will no longer have access to weekly testing for colleagues or monthly testing for residents” in England.
The government had blamed an issue with a supplier from 15 July, but Care UK added that regular testing had “never really got off the ground with the scale we needed” even before this.
“When testing has been promised, it is simply unacceptable for staff to be left waiting for tests”
The letter added that communication from the government on the issue of testing had been “sorely lacking”.
Mr Knight said the latest information he had received was that for “most of our homes in England there will be a minimum of five weeks wait before we are able to access another round of testing”.
Care UK had been exploring the provision of privately funded testing, but said it had so far “been unable to identify a supplier who is able to reliably support us at the scale we require”.
Mr Knight added in the letter: “I am sure many of you will find this situation as disappointing as I do, especially given the positive messages the government is still issuing about the scale of the testing programme it is supposedly offering.”
He urged relatives to support the organisation on this matter by asking local MPs for assistance or information.
In response to the news, Theresa Fyffe, the Royal College of Nursing’s independent sector strategy lead said the lack of testing was “simply unacceptable”.
“We have repeatedly called for nursing staff to be given access to testing as a priority and that includes those working in care homes,” she said.
“When testing has been promised, it is simply unacceptable for staff to be left waiting for tests.
“Without access to proper testing, staff as well as those they care for will be put at unnecessary risk. The lack of testing needs to be urgently rectified.”
Nursing Times has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for a response.