Health

Homecare workers in England still not being tested, say families


Around 120,000 of England’s most vulnerable families are being forced to play “Russian roulette” with Covid because care workers who visit their homes are not being tested despite a government pledge.

Personal assistants who deliver care at the homes of people with chronic conditions such as cerebral palsy and quadriplegia are not being screened for the virus and have transmitted infection, families said.

Three weeks ago the Department of Health and Social Care said NHS test and trace would make coronavirus tests available to all homecare workers in adult social care, live-in carers and personal assistants but it has not yet happened.

Some care workers have been pretending to have Covid symptoms to get tests but that does not tackle the problem, families said. Some have reduced the amount of help they get to limit the risk of infection.

Sue Pringle’s son Marchant Baron, 24, has severe cerebral palsy and requires round-the-clock care, including overnight, but his carers are not being tested.

“My son’s case represents thousands of vulnerable people who should have been protected,” said. “Now they are playing Russian roulette, opening their doors every day to carers who have not been tested and they have no option.”

Pringle said a friend’s care worker had spread Covid into their home and that lives were being put at risk.


Another wheelchair user in Bristol who asked not to be named said the lack of tests for the two carers she relies on was “a source of great anxiety”.

“One of my carers has four children who are mixing in the community and then she comes here,” she said. “It’s really really bad. People working in care homes are being tested and it should be extended.”

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David Constantine, 60, a charity director who is paralysed from the shoulders down and relies on carers around the clock said people in his position were “falling through the gaps”. He has worked around the problem by registering his carers as essential workers, but said the process takes days to complete and is administratively complicated.

He said his lung capacity is so limited that if he caught Covid “that would be it”.

Liz Kendall, shadow care minister, said: “These care workers are right at the frontline yet have been at best an afterthought during the pandemic so far. Ministers must wake up to this issue, guarantee that all personal assistants are regularly tested, and that they receive the vaccine by mid-February along with all other social care staff.”


Meanwhile care home bosses have warned that vaccinations of staff are at risk of falling behind schedule after a survey conducted on Monday suggested around half of care homes have 40% or more of their workers still to vaccinate. The NHS had set a target of delivering first jabs to all staff and residents by last Sunday.

The National Care Forum said that while 95% of the care homes that responded had residents vaccinated, only 27% had had more than seven out of 10 staff inoculated. Some said there was not enough doses left over for staff after residents were injected and others said it was logistically difficult to get all staff to the care home at the same time to receive jabs when the NHS team was on site.

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HC-One, Bupa and MHA, three of the UK’s largest providers of care beds, have recently reported that around half of their staff have been vaccinated so far.

“We need to learn quickly from the reasons why organisations are stating that staff have not been vaccinated and wherever possible remove the barriers at a local and national level,” said Vic Rayner, the NCF executive director.

This week Covid deaths in care homes in England and Wales surged to their highest level since last May, with 1,719 residents dying from the virus in the week to 15 January – more than doubling the death toll since Christmas.

A spokesperson for the DHSC said: “We are doing everything we can to hit our end-of-January and mid-February targets for offering vaccinations.” The department has been asked for comment about testing of carers.



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