Coronavirus testing must go further to protect care homes, says social care boss

James Bullion, executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfol

James Bullion, executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County Council - Credit: Archant

The rolling out of coronavirus testing to care home residents and staff in Norfolk has been welcomed by the county’s boss of adult social care, but he says it needs to go further.

All care home residents and staff in England can now access tests, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

James Bullion, director of adult social care at Norfolk County Council had previously said that social care had become the “battlefront” for the pandemic.

And he has said the time it had taken for such tests to be set up had been frustrating, with one in four care home deaths in Norfolk related to coronavirus.Mr Bullion said: “It really has been a frustrating ride, really, first of all to get the acknowledgement that social care needs to be put on a par with the NHS, but secondly, to get the reality gap reduced between what government say and what happens in practice.”

Mr Bullion said, while there are now testing centres in Norfolk, not everybody is able to drive to them, so it was important to get testing done in care homes.

Speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk, Mr Bullion said: “I think, with training, it’s very likely that care homes would be able to administer tests, if they were overseen by the NHS, but we haven’t got to that point, yet. I think that we should, though, lobby for it.”

From today, the government figures for deaths of patients with coronavirus will, for the first time, include those which occurred in care homes.

Mr Bullion said: “We need to be in a position, going forwards, where we are really clear about the numbers and the safety in our care homes.

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“As I say, though, those numbers and the testing is only one part of the picture. The public protection equipment, safe discharges, staff isolation and isolation of people in care settings is absolutely crucial as well, so we can respond where there is an outbreak.”

Mr Bullion had previously said that there had been cases of coronavirus in between 15pc to 20pc of the region’s care homes.

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He had expressed his fears that could increase to three out of five without better testing and protection for social care staff.

He said: “I completely welcome the focus on testing, but it must be as local as possible, and, preferably, integrated testing of staff and residents around care homes, in particular, so you can really track the outbreaks as they occur and respond to them.”

MORE: Who can get tested for coronavirus and how can they do it?

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