Posted: Tue 9th Jun 2020

All care homes and care home staff in Wales will have been tested by Friday – 90% of tests completed within 48 hours

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jun 9th, 2020

Care home owners in Wales say they fear a failure “to ensure that coronavirus test results are available quickly enough” will lead to a deadly second surge of the disease.

According to Care Forum Wales, which represents more than 450 social care providers, critical time is being lost because test results are still taking too long to turnaround.

They say expert advice tells them it is ‘vital’ for test and trace procedures to be completed within 48 hours otherwise it is ineffective.

The Welsh Government has launched a Test, Trace and Protect strategy, which involves testing people for coronavirus and then tracing the people they have been in contact with in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.

Ministers believe effective use of the strategy will be critical to protecting the lives of thousands of people across Wales in the weeks and months ahead.

However care providers say that although welcome news, the test and trace system cannot possibly work because all too often tests results were not being returned within 24 or even 48 hours, leaving no time for tracers to do their job.

Care Forum Wales has warned ministers of the consequences of inadequate testing and says the current Test, Trace and Protect scheme will fail to achieve its purpose if the results are not available quickly enough.

Mario Kreft MBE, CFW Chair, said: “We launched our campaign to Shield Social Care and Save lives back in February and testing was one of the vital components of that campaign.

“It was vital for a number of reasons including the safe discharge of patients from hospitals into care homes, for staff so they could return to the front line and vital for residents in care homes so you could control the spread. This has not changed.

“It’s imperative that people in care homes – residents and staff – can be tested and the results delivered so that any outbreaks can be contained.

“We now need to learn the lessons of these past few months to ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes, particularly if we are going to experience a second wave of Covid-19 later in the year.

“That’s why Care Forum Wales has campaigned so vigorously from the outset for an effective testing regime to be implemented.”

Mr Kreft cited the case of a member of staff at the Gwyddfor Care Home in Bodedern on Anglesey who waited for nearly 70 to find out the result of her test, which thankfully proved negative.

Gwyddfor owner Glyn Williams said: “If it had been a positive there is no way that it would have been possible to break the chain of infection, it would have been far too late to break the chain of infection. To do that you need to trace every contact within 48 hours.

“If we can get the test turned around within 24 hours that leaves the contact tracers with another 24 hours to contact everyone who is a potential contact of that person and get their agreement to isolate. One thing that doesn’t help in North Wales is that the majority of tests from the region have to be couriered to Cardiff.

“My experience in Wales is that not very many of them are turned around within 24 hours. I referred a member of my staff on Tuesday afternoon at 3.30pm for a test. It finally came through at 11.02am on Friday – that’s nearly 70 hours.

“I’m no expert but I have serious concerns we will have a second peak or another uncontrollable outbreak unless we get the Test, Trace and Protect system running within that golden 48-hour period.”

Mr Williams said the ideal solution would be a quick 20-minute ‘point of care’ test which could deliver a rapid result. Instead, he claimed the current system is long-winded and this is hampering the speed at which results can be returned.

At this afternoon’s Welsh Government briefing we raised the concerns of Care Forum Wales to First Minister Mark Drakeford and asked if he was aware of any delays in terms of turnaround time for test results, and if the 24 hour turn around was a goal for his government.

We also asked if the new laboratory in Rhyl had the capacity to deal with tests in north Wales.

Mr Drakeford said “accelerating the speed” at which tests can be turned around is an “ambition of the Welsh Government” and that 90 per cent or more tests are completed within 48 hours.

He said: “We’d like more to be completed within 24 hours.”

“I’ve never believed myself that the issue where the test is completed is an issue. We have more testing laboratories now in North Wales than we did in the beginning of this.”

“Where your test is carried out is not the issue, because all of our laboratories are doing their best to make sure that they can accelerate the pace at which tests are tests are received, analysed and then results provided.

“By the 12th June we will have completed our testing of all care homes and all care home staff here in Wales. That’s been a major effort.

“I want to thank Care Forum Wales and all local authorities for everything that they have done to enable us to complete that major testing program within the timescales that we had laid down.

“As I say, we have more tests available, more tests being carried out and now we want those test results to arrive more quickly with the people who’ve been tested, because that will help us all to make sure that the Test Track Protect system works effectively across Wales.”

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