Coronavirus screening results take up to 15 days to come back

New care homes testing disgrace: Coronavirus screening results take up to 15 days to come back… and swabs are even thrown away because couriers fail to collect them

  • Care homes are waiting up to 15 days for Covid test results, the Daily Mail reveal
  • Results should be processed within 24 hours but the system is overwhelmed
  • Managers have said that the system is so ‘shambolic’ they fear fatal outbreaks 

Care homes are having to wait up to 15 days for Covid test results, the Daily Mail can reveal.

Managers say the system is so ‘shambolic’ they fear further fatal outbreaks.

With Health Secretary Matt Hancock warning that a virus ‘tipping point’ is approaching, the care bosses demanded a much quicker turnaround.

The Mail spoke to 19 providers which together run 393 homes. Staff or residents tested positive at a third of the chains over the past fortnight and in most cases results came late.

Nine said they had to throw away tests after couriers did not turn up on time. One had to ditch 250 swabs in a week.

Care homes are having to wait up to 15 days for Covid test results, with bosses fearing fatal outbreaks. Above, workers at Ashwood Court residential care home in Lowton, Warrington

Homes need quick results if they are to halt an outbreak.

Several providers had to wait as long as 15 days and in some cases heard nothing back from laboratories. Results should be processed within 24 hours but the supposedly ‘world- beating’ system has been overwhelmed.

In other developments:

  • Downing Street warned that Britain was ‘in the last-chance saloon’ with fresh restrictions coming in days if existing rules are not followed;
  • Chief medical officer Chris Whitty is to give a televised address declaring the UK is ‘heading in the wrong direction’;
  • Overcrowded pubs and restaurants will be shut down on the spot, with police encouraged to carry out checks;
  • Mr Hancock suggested that millions of Londoners could be told to work from home this week in a toughening up of restrictions in the capital;
  • Experts warned that lockdown-style restrictions that discourage eating out and returning to the office would cost the economy up to £250million a day;
  • A further 3,899 cases were confirmed in the UK yesterday, taking the seven-day average to a four-month high

Nadra Ahmed, who is executive chairman of the National Care Association, said the testing chaos was ‘one of the Government’s greatest failings’.

She added: ‘I can’t believe they didn’t envisage that there would be an increase in demand for tests and results in a timely manner as lockdown was eased.

‘We can’t deal with a postcode lottery at this critical time. As it stands, it is utterly chaotic, shambolic and a disgrace.’

Care home boss Mark Ellison, who owns Temple Grove care home in East Sussex with his wife Joanne (both above), said another 57 carefully administered swabs had to be thrown away

Liz Kendall, Labour’s health spokesman, said: ‘Ministers need to take urgent action to guarantee weekly testing with swift results to ensure care homes are properly prepared and keep all elderly and disabled people safe.’

It is three months since Mr Hancock promised ‘every care home’ in England would receive regular testing for the virus. 

Home with one in four batches going to waste 

A care home boss has hit out at the Government’s ‘inadequate’ testing system which has seen one in four batches of tests go to waste because couriers have not turned up.

Mark Ellison, 46, owner of Temple Grove care home in East Sussex, said his manager was almost in tears this week after another 57 carefully administered swabs had to be thrown away. 

He said he had expected ‘teething problems’ but it is ‘unacceptable’ that at least 25 per cent of the time the couriers do not turn up to collect the home’s samples.

When tests are collected, the results are often delayed with some coming back weeks later.

Mr Ellison, who owns the home with his wife Joanne, said: ‘At the moment our staff are agreeing to be swabbed, but we can’t force them to and I worry if this continues to be such a shambles they will be less inclined.’ 

Weekly for staff and every 28 days for residents, this allows managers to catch asymptomatic infections and stop the virus from spreading. But the scramble for swabs has led to lengthy delays.

Around 19,000 care home residents have died since the pandemic began – at its the height Covid-19 was killing 400 a day.

A Department of Health report circulated last week warned that the virus is now spreading through care homes again, with cases quadrupling since the start of the month.

Testing tsar Baroness Harding says that demand for tests is three or four times higher than the daily capacity of around 240,000.

Judith Stockton, manager of Woodlands Care Centre in Macclesfield, Cheshire, said: ‘Even two days is too long. If there was a positive, in two days’ time the whole home would be infected if we weren’t isolating. I’m very scared. The answer back in April was testing. The answer is we need tests back and we need them quicker. It’s the only hope we’ve got.’

Boris Johnson last week announced measures to ‘toughen up rules’ surrounding staff movements in care homes. Ministers are also agonising over whether to impose restrictions on family visits.

Care homes have begun locking down to visitors in coronavirus hotspots or in homes where a member of staff or resident has tested positive. Britain’s biggest care chain, HC-One, is restricting visitors in 99 homes because of local lockdowns or high community infection rates.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘Every day we make sure care homes across the country receive 100,000 test kits with the vast majority reporting no problems. 

‘We are providing every care home with free PPE until the end of March, ring-fencing £1.1billion to prevent infections and making a further £3.7billion available to councils to address pressures caused by the pandemic.’

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