Less than a quarter of social care staff with COVID-19 symptoms have been tested for the virus, despite promises from the government to roll out testing for all care workers.
A survey of National Care Forum members, which between them employ 31,262 staff, found that 22% of the 6,469 care workers identified as being a priority for testing, due to having symptoms, were actually tested.
On April 15, Matt Hancock pledged that a COVID-19 test will be made available to “everyone who needs one” in social care.
But the NCF says this promise is not being met and that the employer portal for COVID-19 testing is “not working” for social care employers.
It said that using this route, only 2% (138 out of 6,469) of staff were able to receive a test at drive-through centres, with no home testing being available on the system.
There is a “significant manual backlog in the system”, the NCF says, which means that large numbers of providers seeking to access testing via this route are not yet even entered onto the system, and there is no prioritisation for social care employers.
Vic Rayner, executive director of the NCF said: “The government’s promise to provide tests for all staff is exposed as pure words. Social care needs to be systematically prioritised in each and every testing system, in order for government to live up to its commitment.”
The self-referral portal appeared to prove more successful with 583 staff managing to get a test via this route. Out of this number, 546 attended drive-through appointments, but only 37 received home testing kits. This route, whilst proving more successful, only enabled 9% of the staff who needed testing to obtain a test.
The NCF found a “number of significant issues” with this route.
“Again, there is no prioritisation for care staff and therefore to obtain a test you have to compete against all other eligible keyworkers and members of the public,” the organisation said.
“This means that employers are not able to plan a strategic approach to testing to align with the homes they most need testing in and employees are under no obligation to report their test results with their employer.”
Local testing systems seem to be the most successful, where they are in place. The survey found that 715 members of staff have managed to access testing through local systems.
However, this is only 11% of the total number of staff who need testing (715 out of 6,469).
Rayner added: “We are calling for the prioritisation of social care employers through the Getting Tested Portal to ensure they have a strategic and targeted prioritization of all their employees – regardless of symptoms as previously promised by the government and for social care workers to be given priority status on the self-referral portal.”