Politics

Matt Hancock told to ‘dramatically’ ramp up ‘inadequate’ coronavirus testing as 200k is ‘not enough’


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MATT Hancock has been told to “dramatically” ramp up coronavirus testing to more than 200,000 a day.

The chief executive of one of the UK’s largest care providers said the Health Secretary’s plan would not be good enough.

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 Matt Hancock said everyone in an elderly care home will get tested in the next few weeks

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Matt Hancock said everyone in an elderly care home will get tested in the next few weeksCredit: Crown Copyright

Last night Mr Hancock revealed all elderly care home residents and staff will finally be tested for coronavirus by the start of June.

He unveiled a £600million fresh package of help for struggling care homes who aren’t able to control the spread of the virus at yesterday’s press conference.

But this morning Jeremy Richardson, who runs Four Seasons Health Care, told the Today programme this is “not helpful”.

He said: “What we need to see are rolling tests because unless the infection only occurs on a Tuesday then I cannot be sure that everybody who is tested is captured.

“We need to see this testing rolled out on a regular basis. There are 1.4 million people, give or take, working in social care and all of those people needed to be tested every week.

“The 200,000 tests per day that the government has announced really should be deployed on that basis only into social care.

“But of course you have to test the rest of the country as well so the Government needs to scale up testing dramatically.

“Because at the moment the testing isn’t adequate and to simply do a single-point test one would have to question whether that is a benefit to us as the operator or to the government for their statistics.”

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Covid-19 has had a devastating impact in care homes bringing the grim tally to 12,526.

‘ISN’T ADEQUATE’

The Government has been criticised for being slow to address the problem as the virus ripped through care homes throughout the country.

Staff and managers called for protection and testing, hitting out at the delay from ministers.

And yesterday the Government published the latest R number – rate of transmission – saying it was between 0.7 and 1.

However, the figures do have a two to three week lag, officials admitted.

It’s thought that the majority of transmission of cases are now in hospitals in care homes, but the rate for the community is far, far lower.

The cash will help to make sure that members of staff only work in one care home at a time, and don’t travel between them.

It will also appoint a clinical lead in every care home, and give them access to NHS PPE training, Mr Hancock said.

Care workers will get mental health support with a workforce app – designed with Hospice UK and Samaritans.

The Fund, which is ring fenced for social care, will be given to local authorities to ensure care homes can stop the the spread of coronavirus.

And the extra cash will pay the wages of anyone who is self-isolating.

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 The coronavirus pandemic has spread through care homes like wild fire

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The coronavirus pandemic has spread through care homes like wild fireCredit: Alamy

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We’ll test every resident and every member of staff in our elderly care homes between now and early June.

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“This £600 million Infection Control Fund will help as we continue to reduce infections in care homes and save lives.

“From the very start of this outbreak, we have been working to protect our brilliant social care workforce and the most vulnerable in our society.

“Our package sets out clearly the extra steps local councils and care homes should be taking as we stamp out the spread of this virus.”

The latest figures show more than 2,000 care home residents in the South East and 1,899 in the North West have died involving the killer bug – making it the hardest hit regions.

The North West also has one of the highest “R” infection rates in the country.

Covid-19 was the leading cause of the death for male care home residents, accounting for 30.3 per cent of deaths.

It was the second leading cause of death in female care home residents, after dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 23.5 per cent of deaths.

Those aged between 65 and 69 accounted for the highest proportion of deaths involving coronavirus in both male and female care home residents – 35.1 per cent and 30.3 per cent respectively.

There has been anger among care home operators, staff and relatives the government has underestimated the severity of the impact of the disease in care.

The Prime Minister has admitted he “bitterly regrets” the coronavirus epidemic that has spread like wild fire the country’s care homes.

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