Last reviewed 5 January 2021

Care home staff in all tiers in England are to receive two rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs) a week as well as the weekly PCR test they already receive according to the Government, which has announced a £149 million grant to support the roll out of rapid testing.

In light of the new, more transmissible strain of Covid-19, care home staff are being asked to take LFTs twice a week, as well as the weekly PCR test. In the event of a positive test in a care home in Tier 4, all staff will additionally be tested daily for seven days.

Care Minister Helen Whately said LFTs would help to manage the increased risk related to employing staff who are working in multiple settings in order to maintain safe staffing levels, although it is critical that care homes endeavour to prevent staff movement in and between care settings to minimise the risk of infection of Covid-19 and other viral illnesses.

National Care Forum (NCF) Executive Director Vic Raynor said the plans mean a tripling of the cur-rent staff testing regime, alongside major additional testing requirements around visiting and the expectation that testing will be “majorly” ramped up during outbreaks.

The grant of £149 million will pay for care home providers to set up safe testing areas, give staff training and contribute towards staff time spent on administering and receiving the tests, and resource costs including gaining consent for tests, supervising the use of PPE and swab tests and then processing and logging the results.

Visits to care homes can still take place in Tiers 4 and 5 with arrangements such as substantial screens or visiting pods but close-contact indoor visits supported by testing cannot take place in these areas.

The grant is also intended to help care homes in tiers 1, 2 and 3 meet additional costs associated with supporting residents to see friends and family. This may change due to recent announcements about the national Covid alert level moving from level 4 to 5.

The money will be made available early this year and will be distributed via local authorities. Allocations will also be announced early in the year.

Care Home COVID-19 Testing Guidance for Testing of Staff and Residents is at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/947786/Care_Home_Testing_Guidance_England_v23-12_-_1.pdf.