The Government has abandoned a pledge to regularly test all people in care homes from this summer, it has been reported.
In a memo sent to local authority chief executives on Friday and reported by The Sunday Times, the government’s adult social care testing director said the promise was being dropped.
“Previously advised timelines for rolling out regular testing in care homes” were being axed because of “unexpected delays”, Professor Jane Cummings said.
The decision, which would throw into chaos the Government's test and trace system, appears to roll back on a promise of regular testing of nearly two million care home residents and staff. Testing was planned to start on July 6, but delayed, and Prof Cummings said that the earliest date by which it would reach all care homes was now September 7.
Care homes are able to order test kits from the Government on August 31, but Prof Cummings admitted that the system for recording tests was "unnecessarily burdensome".
The newspaper also reports that another memo sent to health officials last week said that nearly two-thirds of care homes had not yet had a round of asymptomatic testing, and only about a third of homes had been sent testing equipment.
Last week, The Telegraph reported that staff at Care UK, Britain's largest independent social care provider, could no longer be regularly tested for Covid-19 following the recall of kits. Weekly testing of care staff and monthly testing of residents would have to be halted for at least five weeks at the majority of Care UK’s 114 homes, its chief executive said.
Last month, a paper by the the Care Homes Sub group that was submitted to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found that discharging hospital patients back into care homes was an "important source" of infection.
Serco and Sitel, two outsourcing companies paid £192 million to run the contact tracing scheme, are only getting in touch with 52 per cent of the contacts named by infected patients, The Sunday Times claims. Professor Sheila Bird, the former vice-president of the Royal Statistical Society, said the figures were “extraordinary”.
Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, said the decision was an "utter disgrace".
The Tories really are an utter disgrace, why on earth are they abandoning the care home testing pledge? Don’t they think our vulnerable people and care home staff deserve better than this? When the real threat of a second wave of #coronavirus is a reality, they come up with this! pic.twitter.com/tImxw9WBUE— 🌈 Angela Rayner 🌈 (@AngelaRayner) August 1, 2020
A government spokesman said: “A combination of factors has meant that a more limited number of testing kits, predominantly used in care homes, are currently available for asymptomatic retesting and we are working round the clock to restore capacity.”