Exclusive: Care home owner has 'zero confidence' in rapid Covid testing, as 8 residents die

The owner of a Newcastle care home has told ITV News she has "zero confidence" in the government's planned rollout of rapid Coronavirus tests to allow family visits.It comes as eight of the residents at her West Farm Care Centre in Longbenton, Newcastle, have died in the last 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19.Lucy Craig, who had kept the home COVID-free since the start of the pandemic, said "the last 10 days have been 10 of the most emotional days we have ever experienced in a care home.

"The destruction and the emotional distraught reactions from my staff and from myself have been absolutely horrendous and quite frankly, getting through this and picking ourselves up the other side is going to be one of my biggest challenges."Watch @krisjepson's report here:

On Monday, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announced plans for the new Rapid Lateral Flow Tests to be used on site at care homes to allow residents visits from up to two relatives a week.The new tests can achieve COVID positive or negative results within 30 minutes of a swab being taken.Care home owner, Lucy Craig, who also owns a home in Cramlington that saw six residents die during the first lockdown, has been campaigning for care home testing to be brought under the same testing system as the NHS, which mostly returns results within 24 hours from a lab.She told ITV News she has "zero confidence" in the rapid lateral flow tests, as these are not sent to a lab, and therefore she questions their accuracy.

I have zero confidence and faith in this rapid test. I don’t believe a word they say about it, right now from experience. They’re not going to make the slightest bit of difference unless they are reliable, unless the resources are given to us to actually do these tests, do them properly and get a real result from them.

Lucy Craig, West Farm Care Home

Lucy Craig's concerns are well founded, according to a biostatistician from the University of Birmingham. Professor Jon Deeks pointed to a report published by Public Health England's Porton Down laboratories, which have tested the accuracy of the rapid tests in different settings.

The report found that the tests done by scientists under lab conditions had an overall sensitivity of 76.8 per cent to detecting COVID, but on people with high viral loads, that rose to 95 per cent. These are the sensitivity figures used by the Government to highlight the accuracy of the tests.

However, Professor Deeks told ITV News, what the government did not highlight was that when the rapid tests were carried out by trained healthcare staff the sensitivity reduced to 73 per cent and more worryingly when administered by trained members of the public, it fell to just 58 per cent.

He said if the rapid tests are carried out on site at care homes by trained carers, it would be a similar setting to that of the members of the public analysed, meaning the test could miss nearly half of COVID positive cases.

They (rapid lateral flow tests) are prone to missing cases. They only detect virus levels when they are very high and so they can actually give a negative result when people still have the virus, but it's just not high enough to be detected. The manufacturer’s instructions for this rapid test says 'don’t trust the negative, they always need to be confirmed'.

You know, it would be lovely if we could go into care homes and we could touch our relatives and give them a hug and so on. We’re not quite there with this yet and particularly with this test that the government is pushing, probably overestimating its ability to be safe.

Prof Jon Deeks, Biostatistician, University of Birmingham

The Department of Health and Social Care defended the use of the rapid lateral flow tests, claiming they are "accurate and reliable".A spokesperson told ITV News "These lateral flow tests are accurate, reliable and successfully identify those with COVID-19 who don’t show symptoms and could pass on the virus without realising.

“Rigorous recent evaluation has shown an overall sensitivity of nearly 80 per cent, rising to over 95 per cent in individuals with a higher viral load.

“We are confident that these new tests will make a real difference in how we protect people from this disease and help break chains of transmission.”

These tests are proving to be accurate and reliable. And, importantly they’re able to detect COVID-19 in people without symptoms who could unknowingly be passing the virus onto others. Our evaluation work and the ongoing pilots are helping us to understand how lateral flow tests work in the field and how we may use them to help stop the spread of the virus.

We are confident that these new tests, which have been rigorously evaluated, will make a real difference in how we protect people from this disease and help break chains of transmission.

Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser, NHS Test and Trace
Susan and her husband Peter

Susan Ogden, from North Shields, told ITV News she has not seen her husband, Peter, for eight months. He has been in a care home since 2016 and has advanced dementia.She said, although she is desperate to visit him, she would prefer it if she knows the test she is given makes it safe to do so.

Nobody, least of all me, would wish to take the virus into the home, so therefore everything needs to be in place to ensure that that wouldn’t happen. I would then be willing to sanitise my hands, sit beside him. It doesn’t have to be a face to face, I don’t need to hug him. If I can hold his hand and he’ll know that I’m there and that would be absolutely wonderful.

Susan Ogden

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