A health and social care watchdog has raised concerns for patients who returned home from hospital before receiving their COVID-19 test result.
A study by Healthwatch England and British Red Cross found that 30% of respondents who were tested for coronavirus while in hospital did not receive their test results before they were discharged home or to a care home.
This led to problems in ensuring people were able to manage their care safely after discharge and avoid putting their family and carers at risk.
The report, based on 590 patient stories of leaving hospital between March and August, found that since April, the sharing of test results has gradually decreased. In July, 41% of patients did not receive their test results before being discharged.
It also found that paid carers experienced resistance from hospitals when asking for coronavirus test results for the patient they were supporting. This included a lack of documentation of test results and sometimes no information about whether tests had taken place.
The study also found that although most patients (67%) were tested for COVID-19 during the time they spent in hospital, 24% of patients were not tested.
Priority testing for patients returning home
Researchers have now called for priority testing for patients returning home from hospital. They say this will provide reassurance and help family carers and paid home care services better manage any potential risks.
Guidance issued since March, including in the Adult Social Care Action Plan issued in April and the Winter Plan, issued last month, emphasises that it is essential to test anyone being discharged to a care home, and that results should be available and communicated with care homes before discharge.
However, it is still not policy to test everyone who is discharged from hospital to another location, such as their own home, although some hospitals are doing this.
“Improvements in testing capacity should have as an ambition immediate access to a COVID-19 test for anyone who wants one, with everyone being offered a test at the point of discharge,” the report said.