Are the new COVID-19 rules a mixed blessing for care homes?

A nurse and a senior woman looking at a tablet

We recently conducted a survey of how the demands of COVID-19 testing had impacted on UK care homes together with Care Home Professional magazine. What we found was shocking: the demands of COVID-19 testing has pushed homes to breaking point. Many staff told us they were considering quitting the sector, and one in three managers feared their homes would be forced to close as a result.

The survey responses painted a vivid picture of homes on the brink by the uncertainties and delays of COVID-19 testing regimes. Extended periods of precautionary isolation have caused distress for residents while adding to long-standing staffing shortfalls facing homes.  Many homes reported waiting up to four days to receive PCR test results.

Rebecca Wildsmith, Sales Executive, QuantuMDx
Rebecca Wildsmith, Sales Executive, QuantuMDx

So, we cautiously welcome the Government’s move to relax COVID-19 testing rules and visiting restrictions in care homes. Of course, it’s fantastic that residents and loved ones can spend more time together. It’s been a heartbreaking time for families over the past few years, and the impact on the wellbeing of those unable to see each other has been devastating, but it’s important to note that increased visitor numbers will add to the strain on care homes and their already exhausted staff.

PCR lead times will remain an issue for homes. With the removal of weekly PCR testing for care home staff and lateral flow testing becoming the standard for care homes, any worker testing positive must isolate while they wait for a confirmatory PCR result. The lead times of several days could mean that hundreds of potentially healthy employees are forced into preventative isolation, just as visitor numbers are increasing. 

The Omicron variant is still spreading, so it’s no wonder that nearly all respondents to our survey would opt to replace the existing regime of lateral flow and confirmatory PCR tests with rapid PCR testing at the point of care.

Indeed, 80% of survey respondents said that rapid point of care PCR testing would transform staff wellbeing.

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