Salvation Army calls for better coronavirus testing in care homes

published on 18 May 2020

Letter to MP about care homes

The Salvation Army has written to MPs to ask for a better care home coronavirus testing regime to stop residents and staff unknowingly infecting others. The church and charity targeted MPs with Salvation Army care homes in their constituencies.

The letters urge the MPs to ask Helen Whately Health and Social Care Minister:

• What is the Minister doing to ensure that the Department's guidelines on testing of residents and staff for Covid 19 in care settings is being applied in a consistent and comprehensive manner? 

• What is the Department doing to ensure they address inconsistent approaches to testing in care homes and that care homes experience parity of testing with the NHS?

• Can the Minister provide assurance that sufficient resources are being allocated to ensure that HPT’s (Health Protection Teams) are able to make the impact required?

The Salvation Army runs 12 care homes and is concerned that staff and residents are being put at serious risk due to testing not being applied consistently across areas of England. 

Any patient admitted to hospital is tested for coronavirus, regardless of whether they have symptoms and The Salvation Army is urging the Government to expand this to care homes. Office for National Statistics data has also shown care workers in England and Wales being twice as likely to die from coronavirus than other occupations, including healthcare.

Elaine Cobb, Director of Older People’s Services at The Salvation Army said: “Staff and residents need access to testing so that anyone who is asymptomatic does not inadvertently spread coronavirus to residents. For weeks The Salvation Army and the care sector as a whole has been crying out for better testing with the Government being too slow to react. It’s an urgent measure that will save lives and keep the R rate low as we would be able to stop care staff from unwittingly spreading the virus.

“As our pleas have fallen on deaf ears, we are now writing to all the MPs local to our care homes to ask them to speak out on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in their constituencies. 

“People living and working in care homes deserve the same access to coronavirus testing to help keep them safe and prevent the unnecessary spread as people staying in hospital and health workers.

 “At The Salvation Army we took very early infection control measures such as closing our care homes to visitors ahead of official advice and introducing social distancing before it was a widespread. We also block booked contract care staff to ensure workers are not moving between different care homes and possibly spreading the virus. These measures have helped but we can only do so much without consistent access to testing to ensure people continue to be safe.”

The Salvation Army offers a range of services to older people and their families, both through our network of churches and community centres and in our residential care homes, which operate in 12 locations. All of homes are registered to provide care for residents living with dementia, and some have specialist units.