Care homes warn Covid-19 test delays could cause more deaths

Watch Kris Jepson's report here.

The owner of two North East care homes has told ITV News Tyne Tees more of her residents will die if delays in receiving Covid-19 test results are not addressed.Lucy Craig, who runs the West Farm Care Centre in Newcastle and Cramlington House in Northumberland said "if it’s not dealt with right now, more lives are going to be lost on a daily basis."

The government said it is testing on an "unprecedented scale", with an average of "200,000 tests a day", but acknowledges there is "significant demand".

During the first wave of Coronavirus, Lucy Craig's Cramlington care home lost six residents to the virus.

She welcomed the increased testing capacity introduced by the government in the latter stages of lockdown, but claims there has been a lag in the test results coming back from the labs over the past four weeks.

She said this is a concern, because it will inevitably lead to more deaths if a second wave takes hold. "If you’re a-symptomatic and I test you today and I don’t get your test result back until next Monday or even the following Wednesday, Thursday, that’s you’re isolation period dealt with inside the home, looking after the vulnerable residents and we have no idea whether you are negative or positive at that moment in time."

"More relatives who are being kept outside of the homes for all the obvious reasons that we’ve all talked about are going to watch their mother, their father, their grandmother, their grandfather die with no support whatsoever, other than from the limited supply of resources that we can give as care staff to the elderly".

Lucy Craig told ITV News that in the past month more than 50% of staff test results have taken over a week to come back.

One of the residents her Newcastle care homes looks after is Tina Randall. She has dementia and has lived at the home for three years.

Her family have been unable to visit her for seven months due to the pandemic. They said it is a major worry that the people who are caring for her in their absence, could be carrying the virus.

The National Care Association said the issue is not unique to the North East and called on the government to improve the system of testing.

Executive Chairman, Nadra Ahmed, said "we’re seeing it all across the country and there’s little confidence in the test because some of them are coming back with results that are saying 'inconclusive'. What good is that to us in the sector? It’s chaotic. It’s shambolic. It’s totally unacceptable if we’re going to curb this virus."

The Department of Health and Social Care pointed out that "inconclusive" tests may result from the tests being carried out "incorrectly".

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Health & Social Care said:

"From the start of the pandemic we have been doing everything we can to ensure care home residents and staff are protected, including testing all residents and staff, providing 200 million items of PPE, ring-fencing £600m to prevent infections in care homes and making a further £3.7bn available to councils to address pressures caused by the pandemic – including in adult social care.

We are providing tests at an unprecedented scale – 200,000 a day on average over the last week – but there has been significant demand.

We are expanding capacity rapidly as well as bringing in new technology to process tests faster and will continue to work around the clock process results as soon as possible."