Matt Hancock told to 'dramatically' up 'inadequate' Covid test numbers

Matt Hancock told to ‘dramatically’ ramp up ‘inadequate’ coronavirus testing numbers by care home boss who warns that Boris Johnson’s 200,000 per day target is too LOW as GPs’ leader blasts programme as ‘a bit of a free-for-all’

  • Jeremy Richardson said plan to boost testing in homes was ‘not terrible useful’
  • Care firm CEO  said that the sector’s 1.4million staff all needed testing regularly
  • Hancock pledged to test all residents and staff in England by ‘early June’
  • Head of the The Royal College of GPs demanded clarity over who was a priority
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Matt Hancock was warned to ‘dramatically’ increase the Government’s ‘inadequate’ testing regime today as a care home boss warned even Boris Johnson’s aim of 200,000 per day would not be enough.

Jeremy Richardson, the chief executive of one of the UK’s largest care providers, said that the Health Secretary’s plan to boost testing in homes next month was ‘not terrible useful’. 

The minister used last night’s press conference to pledge to test every care home resident and staff member in England for coronavirus by ‘early June’ amid a growing scandal over the number of elderly people dying from the disease. 

But Mr Richardson said that the sector’s 1.4million staff needed testing regularly to avoid huge numbers of deaths.

His call came as the head of the The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) branded the testing regime a ‘free-for-all’ and demanded clarity over who was a priority.

The Government is under growing pressure to do more to keep the most vulnerable in society safe and the Health Secretary last night confirmed £600 million of new funding to stop the spread in care homes.

But speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning Mr Richardson, who runs Four Seasons Health Care, suggested the cash would do little more than help councils reduce the size of their care provision ‘collective overdrafts’ .

He said: ‘Single point tests are not helpful to us as the operator. What we need to see are rolling tests because unless the infection only occurs on a Tuesday then I cannot be sure that everybody who is tested is captured.

‘We need to see this testing rolled out on a regular basis. There are 1.4 million people, give or take, working in social care and all of those people needed to be tested every week. 

Jeremy Richardson, the chief executive of one of the UK’s largest care providers, said that the Health Secretary’s plan to boost testing next month was ‘not terrible useful’

‘The 200,000 tests per day that the government has announced really should be deployed on that basis only into social care.

‘But of course you have to test the rest of the country as well so the Government needs to scale up testing dramatically because at the moment the testing isn’t adequate and to simply do a single-point test one would have to question whether that is a benefit to us as the operator or to the government for their statistics.’

Office for National Statistics data released yesterday showed between March 2 and May 1 there were 12,526 deaths in care homes where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Meanwhile, the overall number of deaths of care home residents in England and Wales from December 28 to May 1 this year was 73,180 – some 23,136 more than in the same period last year. Once the Covid-linked deaths are taken into account that means there are more than 10,000 unexplained excess deaths in the period.    

Mr Hancock also said the Government’s approach so far had meant that almost two  thirds of care homes have not recorded any cases of coronavirus.   

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said: ‘We have put extra infection control procedures in place and prioritised testing in care homes. 

‘We test any resident returning to a care home from hospital and all residents with symptoms and all social care colleagues and members of their households if they have symptoms. 

‘Together, these measures have saved lives and protected 64 per cent of care homes, almost two thirds, from having any coronavirus cases at all. 

‘And where there are cases we have taken extra measures to protect measures and staff with local public health officials playing such a critical role. 

‘Now we have capacity for well over 100,000 tests a day we are extending testing coverage still further. 

Matt Hancock today pledged to test every care home resident and staff member for coronavirus in England by ‘early June’

‘All care home residents and staff in England, both those with symptoms and those without, are now being tested. 

‘And in fact we will test every resident and every member of staff in our elderly care homes in England between now and early June.’ 

But today the RCGP chairman Professor Martin Marshall said GPs need to know which groups they should be prioritising, what was the role of the new antibody test and how often they should be testing people.

‘What we have got at the moment is a bit of a free-for-all so we are looking for a targeted plan,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘The focus of the whole of the crisis in many ways on very sick people in hospitals is ICUs. But GPs have been providing an essential role in the background.

‘But if we are honest in the Covid crisis the battle is now taking place in the community, not in hospitals. That is where we are trying to prevent the second wave of infections.’ 

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