Care staff will get tested in Norfolk, after being told to visit Sheffield

An NHS worker being tested for coronavirus at a temporary drive through testing station at Chessingt

An NHS worker being tested for coronavirus at a temporary drive through testing station at Chessington World of Adventures. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA - Credit: PA

Coronavirus testing for care workers will start in Norfolk this week, the NHS announced on Monday, after confusion about where staff should go for the tests.

The chairman of the National Care Association, Nadra Ahmed, said on Sunday that some workers in Norfolk had been told their nearest Covid-19 testing centre was in Sheffield, a 300-mile round trip that would take more than five hours.

But on Monday morning Norfolk County Council confirmed the closest centre was Stansted in Essex - a round trip of about three hours and 160 miles.

By the afternoon, NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said a centre for care staff would open in King’s Lynn this week.

“Care homes are being written to in the next 48 hours with instructions to refer staff in for testing,” a spokesman said.

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“We are already testing residents in care homes where we have been asked to do so by Public Health England, and we are rapidly mobilising a proactive care home resident testing service for Norfolk and Waveney this week.”

They said staff had to book and could not just turn up.

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More than 15 drive-thru testing centres for social care staff have been set up, but none in Norfolk until now.

Testing centres are operating in Norwich and Beccles for NHS staff and a county council spokesman said they had sent out forms to Norfolk care providers so they could register for local testing.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock had promised to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of this month, including on care home residents and staff. It would mean those who are self-isolating could get back to work.

But the plan has been hit by problems and on Sunday, 21,626 tests were carried out.

On April 10 Mr Hancock told the daily Downing Street briefing: “I can announce today that we have capacity for all key social care staff and NHS staff who need to be tested to get those tests.”

But Ms Ahmed told Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday that the Government had been “very slow” to respond to the care sector.

She said: “This brilliant team of staff who have been doing this job undervalued year on year for decades is suddenly now in the front line and we are trying our utmost to keep them safe.”

Her comments echo those of Norfolk County Council’s head of adult social care James Bullion.He has previously called for care workers to be treated on par with NHS staff when it comes to testing and being given personal protective equipment (PPE).

Care home staff have also told this newspaper previously about a lack of PPE.

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