Relief as lateral flow tests made available to home care workers

Mark Pepperell, chief of I Care Norfolk Ltd 

Mark Pepperell, co-owner of I Care Norfolk Ltd - Credit: Mark Pepperell

Home care workers are to be supplied with lateral flow tests (LFT) by the government, closing a loophole that experts had warned could cost lives.

Ministers have announced that firms providing domiciliary care - which sees workers visit the homes of vulnerable people to assist them - will now receive supplies of the test kits for staff to use before shifts.

It follows warnings from the industry that difficulties in the supply of kits to people providing care in the home was leading to outbreaks in staff and clients and causing the spread of coronavirus.

Until the change announced by the government, only care home workers - those working in healthcare settings - were supplied with the testing kits.

Mark Pepperell, co-owner of Dereham-based I Care Norfolk Ltd, was among those to lead the calls for a change in policy, lobbying in his role of chairman of the domiciliary care committee of the Norfolk Care Association.

He said that via a survey of staff members across Norfolk, workers with positive tests through privately-sourced LFTs were identified almost four-and-a-half days quicker than those through PCR.

He said: "Although this was a small sample, the data was so clear.

"We were just one small voice among many nationally, but we helped put pressure on the local health authorities who in turn represented us nationally, ending up in the current change in practice."

The changes have also seen reduced isolation periods for those receiving care following a Covid infection and unlimited visiting for care home residents returning.

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Previously, the isolation period for those who tested positive was 14 days, which has now been reduced to 10, or further if they test negative on days five and six.

In a letter sent to care providers, the NHS Test and Trace service said the decision had been made following advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Announcing the changes, care minister Gillian Keegan said: "Thanks to the continued success of the vaccine roll-out, I am delighted we can ease restrictions in care settings and allow unlimited visits to ensure people living in care homes see all their family and friends.

The changes announced are backed by scientists, ensuring we all have more freedoms from coronavirus, including care home residents and their families."

The requirement for lateral flow tests will be fully rolled out by Wednesday, February 16.