Care homes raise concerns over accuracy of rapid tests

Covid-19 rapid test kit

Concerns have been raised over the accuracy of rapid test kits which are being sent out to care homes. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Care sector experts in North Somerset have raised concerns about the introduction of rapid testing kits – some of which are only 50 per cent accurate. 

More than one million rapid Lateral Flow Tests have been sent to 385 of the biggest care homes as part of the first phase of the national roll out to enable people to visit relatives in care homes by Christmas.  

In new guidance, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says care home visits can go ahead in all tiers - unless there is a coronavirus outbreak in the care home.   

However, a number of local authorities have written to care homes to advise them not to use the kits until they have received more information from the Government on whether the tests can be used safely to give accurate results in high-risk settings. 

Gordon Butcher, Weston care home owner and regional chairman of the Registered Nursing Home Association, said: “I'm holding off at present giving the tests as a 50 per cent success rate is too high a risk for us.  

“We have been Covid free throughout. It would be ironic for is to now contract a case at the 11th hour when the vaccine is around the corner, especially as a result of an inaccurate test.  

“I've heard from other care home providers in the area who also are not going to use the test kits. I have written to all my resident's families about our dilemma.” 

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The Government has said each care home is responsible for setting its own visiting policy - a move which Mr Butcher says places care homes ‘back in the firing line with families’. 

Care home testing is being led by the DHSC and North Somerset Council is not directly involved in managing it, but the authority’s health leaders have been providing regular advice and support to home operators. 

Mike Bell, the council’s executive member for health said: “The new lateral flow tests are validated technology for rapid testing, but they are not as precise as the standard PCR testing used in whole home testing or at the testing centres.  

“So, it is important that the rapid test is not considered a replacement for robust infection prevention and control measures and they don’t replace regular whole home PCR testing, which is being undertaken weekly for staff and monthly for residents.  

“Visitors must continue to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment, observe social distancing when in the care home and good hand hygiene, and follow any guidance the care home provides on physical contact with the person they are visiting.” 

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