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Care home testing 'inadequate' claims MSP as NHS defends its record

MSP Colin Smyth

TESTING for Covid-19 in the region's care homes is “woefully inadequate” says MSP Colin Smyth, quoting figures showing only four staff members and seven residents were tested in the week starting June 1. According to Scottish Government statistics released last week, very small numbers of staff and residents in the region were tested that week. However, the numbers rose the week starting June 7, with 75 staff and 159 residents tested. The NHS has defended its record in the area, saying it was among the first to offer testing for residents with symptoms. Statistics show across Scotland as a whole, 11,195 care home staff out of 53,000 have been tested, despite, says Mr Smyth, Scottish Government commitments to begin the regular testing of care home staff four weeks ago. Mr Smyth said: “Care home testing in Dumfries and Galloway is still woefully inadequate, despite the many promises and commitments from the Scottish Government. “The fact that just four staff members and seven residents were tested in the region during one week at the start of June is completely shocking and the government needs to get a grip. This is yet another example of the government promising one thing but failing to deliver on the ground and it is letting down our amazing care home workers, residents and their families. “It has been proved across the world that testing is key to fighting back against this terrible virus and while the numbers of cases are falling, our health professionals are continuing to say we're not out of the woods yet. “Our care homes house some of the most vulnerable members of our society and as we've seen in many tragic cases across the country, this virus hits older people hardest. Testing care home staff and residents should have been routine right from the very start of this pandemic and sadly we cannot turn back the clock but at the very least the government should be delivering that testing now, three months on, so we can reduce the risk of more Covid-19 deaths." Valerie White, Interim Director of Public Health at NHS Dumfries and Galloway said: “Our care homes have been doing a truly phenomenal job of protecting their residents against Coronavirus – and I would like to pay testimony to all their hard work and dedication during this period and also to you our local community who have been supporting them during this difficult time. “Our Health and Social Care Partnership has been supporting care homes across the region from the very start of this coronavirus situation. We have offered testing to all symptomatic residents since the start of this pandemic, and to care home staff and their household members since the 20th March. We were one of the first health and social care partnerships in the country to do this. “In the last three weeks, we have also undertaken testing of a sample of care home staff and residents who do not have coronavirus symptoms. This has been in care homes where there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus. This has now been undertaken in four care homes with all results being negative. “From these various programmes we have tested at least 225 care home staff or members from their household. “In Dumfries and Galloway there are approximately 1,500 individuals working in 31 care homes. Over the last week the health and social care partnership has been working with care homes to support them to access the weekly offer of testing for care home staff who do not have symptoms of coronavirus. “This asymptomatic testing is an additional preventive measure to detect potential outbreaks at an early stage. As you can imagine this is a large-scale programme to implement, not just for the health and social care partnership, but also for the care homes as this involves them undertaking testing within that environment. “Over the coming weeks we will continue to support our local care homes to implement the offer of weekly staff testing, but it will take time to see an increase in the figures. It should be remembered that this is not a compulsory test for care home staff, some staff may not wish to have it and others might opt to have it less frequently. “In addition to the above we will continue to undertake a programme of surveillance testing of asymptomatic residents subject to appropriate consent”. Miss White added: “Coronavirus has not gone away but by following the Scottish Government guidance you, our local community, are contributing to keeping the levels of the virus low and this helps to keep residents in our care homes safe. Thank you for continuing to do this. “Care homes are very much part of our Health and Social Care Partnership and I want to assure you that we have, and we will continue to support them during this very difficult period.” Mr Smyth concluded: “We must remain vigilant and as lockdown measures look set to be further reduced this week, I would urge everyone to continue to follow advice about what they can and can't do but I would also urge the Scottish Government to up their game in terms of testing.”

<< back Published: 16 Jun 2020, 16:47

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