Posted: Fri 8th May 2020

Deeside MP Mark Tami writes to Welsh Government over care home COVID-19 testing concerns

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, May 8th, 2020

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Alyn and Deeside’s MP has told the Welsh Government he is ‘very concerned’ about a policy which will see blanket COVID-19 testing in care homes but only if they have 50 residents or more.

Mark Tami has written to Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Government Health Minister stating the new policy will leave a “huge amount” of care homes across Wales seriously disadvantaged.

Testing of residents and staff without symptoms is only happening in smaller homes where there is an outbreak.

The rate of infection within care home settings is higher than in many other settings due to the more confined spaces which residents live. 

In England, all care home residents and staff are being tested for COVID-19, unlike Wales

First Minister Mark Drakeford said previously, clinical evidence showed there was “no value” in testing everyone.

Older People’s Commissioner Helena Herklots criticised the testing criteria saying rules should be changed in line with England as a “matter of urgency”.

Vaughan Gething was asked why scientists would not want more data on care home infection rates, he said: “If you are going to test people at one point in time it doesn’t tell you where they will be tomorrow or in three or four day’s time.

Equally, it doesn’t tell you about the measures that you understand have a much more significant impact on keeping people safe.

We are talking about basic hygiene. We are talking about people using PPE correctly as well.

It’s important not to get to the position where testing is the only thing that people need to be concerned about.”

Welsh Government published figures on Tuesday showing 418 care home residents have died between 1 March to 1 May as a result of contracting COVID-19.

The figures are based on the “Notifications of Service User Deaths” received by Care Inspectorate Wales and are not included in the daily updates from Public Health Wales. 

Mark Tami said in his letter to Mr Gething: “I am writing to you on behalf of a number of constituents who have contacted me regarding their concern at the lack of testing in care homes in Wales.

l appreciate the steps Welsh Government has taken so far in expanding the testing available from testing those just showing symptoms to now include all residents and employees in care homes with the number of beds over 50.

However, I am very concerned that this policy only applies to larger care homes and that those smaller care homes will only be tested if a person is showing symptoms and tests positive.

This leaves a huge amount of care homes across Wales becoming seriously disadvantaged and very vulnerable in their fight against this deadly virus.

The care sector has already felt great pressure by the lack of PPE made available to them and now will certainly be feeling hugely let down in relation to the testing restrictions.

Many of my constituents have contacted me regarding their fears for the employees and residents of our care homes, and believe the decision to not test in smaller care homes lacks an evidential basis.

I hope you will give this further consideration, our care workers are invaluable and our elderly residents need to be protected.

Fighting this virus in care homes will be consequential in fighting this virus across Wales and the UK.”

One senior assistant from a privately run care home in Flintshire – who asked not to be named –  contacted earlier this week with concerns over the testing regime in Wales, compared to that of England.

On Tuesday management at the care home were told by Public Health Wales that even though they have a resident who has tested positive for COVID-19 there was ‘not enough capacity’ to test the rest of the residents or any of the staff. 
A list of all residents was sent to health officials but managers were told tests will be sent “once they have the capacity.”


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