Lack of community nurse covid testing is ‘disgraceful’ - care home boss

Tom Lyons is the Black Swan care group manager. Picture: Ian Burt

Tom Lyons is the Black Swan care group manager. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Community nurses visiting care homes in Norfolk have not been tested throughout the pandemic it has been revealed.

Tom Lyons, managing director of Black Swan Care Group, called it “disgraceful and grossly negligent” after learning through a Freedom of Information Act request that 185 community nurses visiting multiple care homes in the county have never been tested for covid.

The Department of Health and Social Care has not required the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCHC), who employs the nurses, to carry out weekly testing surveillance.

The government said it is piloting weekly testing of professionals who visit care homes.

Mr Lyons said the nurses and other health and social care professionals should be subject to the same level of testing as care home staff to safeguard the most vulnerable.

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Mr Lyons said: “I think this is disgraceful and grossly negligent. It is something that the government must act on immediately in order to safeguard those that are most vulnerable. I do think it is completely unacceptable for community nurses not to be part of this regime as they are clearly high risk.”

The government announced funding boosts for care homes in May and September to help to reduce the virus transmission, including staff working in one care home.

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During the pandemic, Mr Lyons said a number of staff worked extra hours to limit the need for agency staff, but community nurses were needed on a daily basis to support patients with higher needs.

Mr Lyons said if he was aware nurses were not being routinely tested he would have invited staff to be part of testing regimes.

He said: “My plea to the government is to broaden the testing regimes, to stop intimating that care homes are being purposely neglectful and trust them to act in residents best interests, recognise that care homes are now some of the most COVID secure places and to improve funding so that care staff can be paid and recognised for the skilled workers they are.”

Measures taken by the group to stop coronavirus entering homes include thermal scanners, regular cleaning as well as a monthly antimicrobial spraying of surfaces and furniture and weekly testing for every member of staff.

Carolyn Fowler, director of nursing and quality at NCHC, said the trust followed government guidelines and carried out its own staff covid testing facility.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson, said: “We continue to do everything we can to ensure care home residents and staff are protected from Covid-19, with all care homes for adults able to access weekly testing and over 10 million test kits sent out so far.

“We are currently piloting weekly testing of professionals who regularly visit care homes and will use this data to consider next steps.”

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