Over the last few weeks it has become increasingly evident that there has been both a disruption and delay of the weekly staff testing regime that is required of care homes. This has been documented in numerous HSCP Partnership forums, telephone calls and emails from care home providers highlighting concerns over delays in receiving test results and a considerable number of test results returned as inconclusive. Since the 2nd week in August there has been a gradual slowing down in the time taken for test results to be returned. This has seen an increase from a 1 – 3 day waiting period initially and a very high level of response to around 5 and 6 days and incidences of 7-10 days for those tests that were undertaken the week commencing the 24th August.
This timeframe can be connected to the opening of schools across the country which saw a dramatic increase in the request for tests from families whose children were displaying COVID symptoms. It also relates to increased demand and problems directly associated with the UK Government Social Care portal.
These circumstances mean that staff are currently in the position of being asked to undertake another test while not having received the results of their previous test. This understandably has generated a lack of faith in the integrity, resilience and rigour of the National Testing programme which in turn puts at risk their commitment to undergoing tests.
The importance of these issues cannot be understated as the weekly testing regime has a critical purpose of protecting residents from staff who may be unknowingly carrying the virus. The impact will be felt also in staffing levels and sustaining service delivery as infected workers will pass on the virus to colleagues and staff absence levels will rise.
In addition, a robust testing regime is a key requirement of enabling family members to visit their relatives in care homes and as autumn and winter starts we need to do everything we can to ensure that indoor visiting is protected. We have a real concern for the coming weeks and months as further impacts will be felt not least from the return of Universities and Colleges and the remobilisation of NHS services.
Scottish Care acknowledges that Scottish Government officials have been very responsive to our concerns and have been working hard to address these issues with the UK Government Social Care portal. The UK portal system has been unresponsive to the needs of the care sector in Scotland. We now believe that it would be in the best interests of both staff and residents if the whole testing of staff was taken over directly by Scottish Government.