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We need regular testing in care homes

Posted by cornwallcare on July 2, 2020

By Anne Thomas, CEO

With lockdown restriction easing considerably this weekend (for most of us at least), it’s tempting to think the end of COVID-19 is finally in sight. It isn’t.

As the people of Leicester are finding out to their cost, outbreaks are still occurring and, when they happen in a care home, the impact can be devastating.

The symptoms of the virus are well-publicised – a dry cough, raised temperature, loss of smell and taste. The problem is – and it is a huge problem for those of us working in the health and social care sector – not everyone with the virus has those symptoms. Indeed, some people have no symptoms at all.

For all the publicly acknowledged importance of testing, we still cannot access proactive and regular testing for our residents. That means someone who feels as healthy and well as they normally do might be unwittingly infecting others. In a care home full of elderly and vulnerable people, the consequences when that happens can be dire.

We introduced very strict measures into our 16 care homes at the start of this pandemic and my staff have worked incredibly hard to keep everyone in their care as safe and well as possible. COVID-19 is an invisible and deadly enemy, however, and waiting until someone displays symptoms to identify its presence can be too late to stop the viral spread.

Care homes need to have testing kits available so they can test as a matter of course – proactively not reactively. Relatives, residents and staff have to have peace of mind and, until there is a vaccine, that can only come with repeated checking. It isn’t good enough to think if someone is clear of the virus one week, they will still prove negative the next.

We’re dealing with a very clever viral monster and we have to position ourselves on the front foot – rather than the back.

This crisis isn’t all about the science – sound common sense is just as crucial.

For all the publicly acknowledged importance of testing, we still cannot access proactive and regular testing for our residents.