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Rapid testing pilot to be introduced in Devon care homes

By Beth Sharp

6th Dec 2020 | Local News

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Health Services. Credit: Daniel Clark)
Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Health Services. Credit: Daniel Clark)

A care home testing pilot has 'brought hope and a glimpse of the new normal' across Devon, with the hope all care homes will have rapid testing in place by Christmas.

Eight care homes across Devon have been selected to take part in the trial for relatives to visit their loved ones indoors without a screen, subject to the results of a rapid Covid-19 test.

Regular testing has been offered to one family member or friend per resident, which – when combined with other infection-control measures such as PPE – will support meaningful visits.

The trial runs until December 13 and then the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will evaluate the pilot through interviews with homes and visitors, observations and review of all training and guidance.

The DHSC then plans to lead a phased rolling out of the visitor testing to care homes in the first two weeks of December, ensuring all homes have this in place in time for Christmas.

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for adult social care and health services, told Thursday's full Devon County Council meeting, that 'relatives and residents have been very emotional with the pilot bringing hope and a glimpse of the new normal'.

He added: "Feedback from the homes has been mainly positive, reporting that the process is simple to follow and meaningful contact whilst wearing full PPE is appreciated. Relatives and residents have been very emotional with the pilot bringing hope and a glimpse of the new normal."

Cllr Leadbetter said that of the first 30 visitors who had been tested, one visitor tested positive and went home to isolate while awaiting the result of the PCR result, and while one visitor refused testing because they didn't feel comfortable.

Cllr Roger Croad, cabinet member for community and public health, added that Devon currently has the fourth lowest Care Home rate among local authorities in the South West,

He said that at the time of reporting, there were 91 known situations in care homes across Devon which equate to around 180 confirmed coronavirus cases.

He said: "These situations are being managed through Adult Social Care with support from Public Health Devon and PHE. Situations in care homes remain open for 28 before they are closed provided no new cases are reported, and around two thirds of our care homes with open situations have not reported a case within the last seven days."

On lateral flow tests, he added: "There will be a national mass testing programme which will see a central supply of LFD tests to various settings to enable the undertaking of regular testing of staff. A number of pilots are underway but is likely to include settings including, visiting professionals to care homes, all visitors to care homes, prisons, extra care and supported living.

"In addition to the national programme all Directors of Public Health will receive an allocation of LFD tests for local determination, and work is currently underway to identify priority groups which are not included within the national programme for which we can utilise the flexible allocation."

He confirmed that testing capacity for people with Covid-19 symptoms (Pillar 2) has increased in Devon over recent weeks with tests in Devon having doubled compared to August levels with approximately 16,500 Pillar 2 tests being undertaken on a weekly basis in Devon.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour group, who had asked for the cabinet member reports on the outcomes of the new care home testing pilot scheme in Devon, said: "Our local care homes have worked so hard to try and keep their residents and staff safe through the pandemic, and have shown huge dedication and compassion in the face of the crisis.

"I welcome the fact that we were chosen as a pilot area, and really hope that we can learn from the exercise looking to the future, allowing loved ones better access, so that they can spend precious time together, and when the time comes to say their goodbyes in timely and proper manner.

"The next massive challenge will be to ensure the full expansion of the vaccination programme to each and every care home that we have in Devon to support this vital part of our society."

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