Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies is concerned that not all care homes in North Wales are meeting the recommended weekly Covid testing of staff and is therefore encouraging any homes in the Vale of Clwyd experiencing issues preventing them from hitting the target to contact him.
All care homes in North Wales are entitled to weekly testing of staff via the UK Lighthouse Lab system to help protect residents. However, James has been informed that not all have been in a position to take this option up.
In last week’s Health and Social Care Select Committee he raised the matter with Professor Jane Cummings, the Chief Nursing Officer for England, and Executive Director of NHS England.
“What percentage of care homes currently meet the weekly testing that is being sought? What is the reason why that is not 100%, if it isn’t? Allied to that, in relation to the performance of that system, are you happy that the increased pressures that winter may bring will allow performance to continue to improve and not worsen?”
Professor Cummings agreed it has been a problem, but reassured James that the situation is improving.
“They have been influenced by the longer turnaround times. However, that is improving and we have seen a reduction in the median time for testing results, which is absolutely vital because we do not want people who are positive to carry on working, or for us not to know about that. I am pleased that those have reduced significantly.
“We have written to reinforce the importance of weekly testing. It is very clear advice and guidance from SAGE. We know that it is one of the best ways of responding accurately when people have Covid.
“We have been working with the national testing programme to make testing as easy as possible, to allow them to book couriers when it suits them, to get access to training and support and to be able to flag any concerns with us. The national testing programme runs a helpline, with more than 100 people available to take queries. We respond on an individual basis when things are flagged.”
Speaking afterwards, James said:
“Weekly testing within all care homes helps protect both residents and staff and is an important part of the national effort to tackle coronavirus. It is therefore worrying that it is still not taking place in some homes.
“I was told a few weeks ago that it varied across North Wales from a 50% to 80% take up.
“It is crucial that we protect our older and more vulnerable residents and the best way of doing this is by regular testing.
“I therefore encourage full take up in the Vale of Clwyd and if there are issues care homes are experiencing in accessing this, then I would encourage them to let me know so this can be fed back to the relevant bodies and the issues can be addressed.
“These tests are relatively simple to carry out, and the bottom line is they save lives.”