Latest update on Covid-19 vaccination and Lateral Flow Testing
11th December 2020
I believe it is a pertinent time to further update you regarding our testing regimes, visiting our Care Homes and progress in relation to the Covid-19 vaccination.
We continue to push for our residents and our colleagues to have the Covid-19 vaccination in a timely manner and have already developed guidance in relation to this to help speed up the process. We see the vaccination as a key way of curbing the virus and getting back to normality. As much as possible, we have asked our own colleagues to step forward and assist in the timely vaccination of all our residents. As I am sure you can understand, we are not in direct control of the vaccination roll-out but we have continued to liaise and consult with those who are directly involved in the vaccination programme and we will work closely with the NHS and GP’s to ensure that we are seen as a priority given the effect that Covid-19 can have on a Care Home environment.
We are aware of the rolling out of Lateral Flow Testing in the UK and at the moment are studying the guidance in relation to this. We have also been in regular contact and consultation with those responsible for its implementation. We do feel it important to share with you some facts in relation to Lateral Flow Testing which may not have become apparent when studying the recent media coverage of Lateral Flow Testing;
- Lateral Flow Testing does not mean we can stop the wearing of PPE; Government guidance in relation to Lateral Flow Testing states that full PPE must be worn, and that social distancing still needs to take place. We have developed visiting guidance incorporating Lateral Flow Testing and will update this as more information is made available in relation to the tests.
- The test itself is much less sensitive than the PCR test used in Hospitals and Test Centres around the UK, and as such is simply an indicator of Covid-19 status; if a Lateral Flow Test shows a positive result, it is advised that a PCR test is undertaken to verify Covid-19 status The accuracy of the Lateral Flow Tests is of concern to us particularly given the work we have completed thus far to reduce the risk of infection. As such, we have sought to gain verification in relation to the sensitivity of the test and have advised Government bodies that the test will not be advocated in any Home where we believe that the risk is increased by relying on Lateral Flow Testing. We are also aware of certain Local Authorities and other Providers having similar concerns to ours. We therefore wish to have clarification on a number of issues before widely promoting the tests in our Homes.
- Staff will need to be trained in how to conduct the tests; Homes that have received the testing kits, await guidance on the appropriate training of colleagues and will be monitoring the effectiveness of this training. Coupled with this, we may need to structurally change some areas of some of our Homes to allow testing to be conducted safely and appropriately. These preparations will need careful assessment and will take time.
- Given the time taken to complete the tests for visitors, being estimated at 45 – 60 minutes, it could mean we would need to be reduce the number of visits a day; if we believe the testing does significantly affect the number of visitors we can allow each day, we will need to review this. We believe that visitors being able to visit is far more important than visitors needing to be tested by us with a test which may not be as sensitive as the current PCR test. This is a matter we will be seriously considering.
We have developed a risk assessment and our own set of guidance in relation to Lateral Flow Tests and aim to pilot the test in selected Homes first before possibly advocating its more widespread use. We believe that with any new development or approach to Covid-19, it is better to assess and think things through rather than advocating the approach without taking account of possible consequences. This is why you may not see Lateral Flow Testing in operation immediately. We need to consider the widespread implications of such a test and have a duty of care to our residents and colleagues to ensure their health, wellbeing and safety is not negatively impacted by any new procedures.
At the present time, we are continuing to plan and monitor how we can facilitate visits safely regardless of Lateral Flow Testing. Our priority as always will be the safety and wellbeing of our residents and colleagues.
We want to thank you again for your patience and continued support of our colleagues as they work through the planning and implementation of testing and vaccinations over the coming weeks and months.
As always we will continue to do everything we can to keep you updated but please don’t hesitate to share your queries and concerns with our Home Managers.
With my best wishes to you, stay safe and well.