Coronavirus: Only a quarter of care workers are being tested for COVID-19 | UK News

Carers have criticised the government’s roll out of COVID-19 tests after many workers were told to travel long distances to access them.

Last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock said all those in social care who needed a test would be able to get one after the sector said it was struggling to cope.

Since then, a handful of drive-thru sites have opened around big cities.

Care workers who show symptoms of COVID-19 must register online and travel to the test location and then wait two days for the results to come back.

Chloe Butler, a carer in Scarborough, has been off work for a week with coronavirus symptoms. She was told her nearest test centre was Leeds – a 140-mile round trip.

Chloe Butler, a carer in Scarborough, has been off work for a week with coronavirus symptoms
Chloe Butler, a carer in Scarborough

“I was in shock when I was told how far I’d have to go. I don’t drive and I cannot get a lift, so it means I can’t access the test,” she said.

“I think it’s dangerous asking people to travel those kinds of distances when we’re being asked to limit our movements.”

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Tests are being run by the Care Quality Commission and, by the end of this week, all 30,000 care providers should have been contacted to identify workers eligible for testing.

Those workers will have to make their way to one of the nine drive-in test centres across England, although there are plans for a total of 17 in the next few weeks.

But figures obtained by Sky News show a low number of workers are being tested.

Only a quarter of those care workers eligible have managed to access them, according to data by the National Care Forum.

Care providers say tests are vital if staffing levels are to be maintained because they clear up who has COVID-19 and who has not. That affects staffing numbers and levels of scarce personal protective equipment needed to care for a patient.

David Ramage, manager at the Dunollie Residential home in Scarborough, says it is vital for tests to be local.

Care home workers have said tests are vital to keep staffing levels high
Care home workers have said tests are vital to keep staffing levels high

He said: “It is absolutely pointless asking people to travel sometimes hundreds of miles for tests. We need tests to be delivered locally, preferable at the care home.

“Only then will we feel confident that our staff and residents are properly protected.”

Roy Young, who runs two homes in Sheffield said it was hard to get staff tested.

“We haven’t seen any tests I’m afraid. I made the decision to lockdown my homes a month ago and we have had no coronavirus cases,” he said.

“These are unprecedented times and I appreciate everyone is working very hard, but this is really important that we get it right.”

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Neither the Department for Health, Care Quality Commission or Public Health England were able to confirm to Sky News how many social care staff had been tested in the last week.

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said: “The drive in centres are not necessarily ideal for people working in a distributed system like care sector.

“So although access is available in NHS labs and NHS settings, which is very widely distributed, we’re piloting a number of different ways of getting tests out to people both directly sending swabs to care homes and also mobile delivery.

“So there are a number of ways we can get the swabs to the people rather than expecting that people come to the schools.”

A method of getting tests to workers’ homes was being piloted, Prof Newton added.

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