Why are home care workers slipping through the net on lateral flow tests?
- Credit: Chris Bishop
Urgent calls have been made for in-home care workers to be supplied with lateral flow testing (LFTs) kits - with bosses warning failure to do so could cost lives.
As it stands, care home workers are supplied with the testing kits to stay on top of the spread of the virus alongside regular PCR tests.
However, this supply chain does not extend to those working in domiciliary care - in which workers visit the homes of vulnerable people to provide care outside of a health setting.
While workers are supplied with a once-weekly PCR test, Mark Pepperell, director of Dereham-based I Care Service Norfolk, says the lack of LFTs is seeing some positive cases slip the net before it is too late.
This, he says, has led to outbreaks within his staff and clients and greater risk put to the vulnerable people in his care.
He said: "In domiciliary care we provide the exact same services as people would receive in care homes or in hospitals, but our staff are treated differently.
"On average our PCR results are taking around four days to come back and in this time our workers have to continue working.
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"Staff members can try and access tests like any other member of the public, but there is no guarantee to get them."
Mr Pepperell, who chairs the domiciliary care committee of the Norfolk Care Association, added: "The level of guilt our staff feel is awful. One of our members of staff had a late positive PCR test result back and in the waiting period had trained three new members, so that already was four members of staff out of action.
"This is a crisis in the making and one which could easily have been averted."
Jo Tier, director of operations at Extra Hands, which has offices in Norwich and Heacham, said: "I have around five members of staff off isolating after positive PCR tests who may have been able to come back to work sooner with two negative lateral flows on days six and seven, but they haven't been able to get hold of them.
"It feels throughout the pandemic that the goalposts have been moved over and over again for the home care sector and it almost feels like we have constantly been forgotten about."
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "Everyone can continue to get free tests and we are encouraging people to use rapid tests when they need them.
“We continue to increase the number of tests sent out with record numbers being distributed across the country, and delivery capacity has been doubled to up to 900,000 PCR and LFD test kits a day.
“Throughout the pandemic we have provided free tests to the adult social care sector available via the government’s website or from nearby pharmacies.