Named family and friends may soon be able to regularly visit loved ones in care homes as a new testing pilot is launched.
Family members or friends of those living in care homes will be given regular testing to reunite them with their loved ones in care homes as a new pilot launches on Monday (16 November 2020).
The pilot is taking place in around 20 care homes across Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon from Monday and will be rolled out more widely in December in time for Christmas.
Regular testing will be offered to one family member or friend per resident, which – when combined with other infection-control measures such as PPE – will support meaningful visits. These will enable, where possible, indoor visits without a screen to take place while reducing the risk to care home residents, staff and visitors.
Visitors will be offered either PCR tests which they can do at home, or the new 30-minute rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs), which can be administered in person at care homes before a visit.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
We will be encouraging and supporting care homes to facilitate visits to go ahead in a COVID-secure way wherever possible.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said:
The pilot, which forms part of plans to roll out mass testing technology across the country, has been made possible thanks to a huge expansion in the country’s testing capacity, which currently stands at over 500,000 per day.
Each care home receiving LFTs will receive a box of 675 initially and will be given access to more as required.
It will take place in local authorities with lower transmission rates to ensure it can be done as safely as possible and care staff are being trained to ensure tests are administered safely and accurately.
It will further develop the evidence base for how testing with fast, reliable COVID-19 tests can be delivered at scale.
If successful, care home testing will be rolled out in a phased way across the country.
Any decision on a national roll-out will be taken in light of the latest available data on transmission rates as a result of national COVID-19 restrictions.
Exact details of the national roll-out will be published in due course and will be guided by the pilot. It is anticipated the LFTs will be used across the country to support rapid access. If these faster tests work in this setting we will ring-fence supply to open up more chances for visiting.