The protection of the most vulnerable people in our communities has been a significant priority during the Coivd-19 virus outbreak. Responding to emerging evidence we revised our care home testing policy on 16 May extending testing to all staff and residents, symptomatic or asymptomatic in care homes, this was in addition to the existing support arrangements:
- all residents and staff of care homes with ongoing cases of Covid-19 and any home reporting a new outbreak
- larger care homes registered for 50 or more beds
- all people being discharged from hospital to live in care homes regardless of whether or not they were admitted to hospital with Covid-19
- all people who are being transferred between care homes and for new admissions from the community
This policy has been strengthened by a large scale testing programme covering all residents and staff across care homes in Wales. There are more than 1050 registered adult care homes in Wales. All of our registered adult care homes have been offered testing and testing is almost complete. We are aware of 30 care homes where testing is still underway and we are working closely with staff to complete these as soon as possible. There has been some reluctance from some care homes to take part in the testing programme particularly where there have no outbreaks in the home. We are working with Local Health Boards, local authorities, Care Inspectorate Wales and Care Forum Wales to ensure that the remaining homes are supported and encouraged to encourage uptake and offer alternative testing through the home testing kit.
I want to express my thanks to health boards and everybody involved in delivering this mass testing programme at pace and to care home providers, staff and residents for participating in the process, enabling us to complete the task as quickly as possible.
It has been a mammoth exercise to mobilise this programme, completing over 51,000 tests by 14 June, 22,887 tests on residents and 28,781 tests on care home staff. Of this number 5% of residents and 4% of staff have tested positive and we are taking every step to ensure there are robust infection control measures in place for all care homes to protect them from the risk of future harm.
It is vital that we are vigilant in ensuring that care homes are protected from any new outbreaks, therefore from 15th June all care home staff are now offered a weekly antigen test for four weeks. The staff will be tested through the care home portal.Our policy for testing in care homes will continue to be reviewed and adapted as scientific evidence emerges.
We want to re-assure those living in care homes and their families that they are our greatest concern, we also want to there to be a safe return to visiting and will be providing guidance for care homes on how this can be achieved to minimise the risk of harm. We are therefore developing a care home plan to support the delivery of a recovery programme.