Testing numbers drop by 40,000 as many kits are left unused

“Thousands of kits are sitting unused, social services chiefs said, because of a lack of clarity about who can administer them.

Residential care homes, which are registered by the Care Quality Commission, are not registered to carry out nursing tasks. Social services officials say they are unsure how far they are allowed to bend the rules on this.”

Sarah Marsh and Diane Taylor, the Guardian, 4 May 2020

Ministers are facing criticism over coronavirus testing as the number of daily tests dropped below 80,000, care home staff reported difficulties in getting checked and home kits were delivered without return envelopes.

On Friday, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced the government’s target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April had been achieved, with more than 122,000 provided on the last day of the month. Since then, the number has dropped by more than 40,000, with just 76,496 delivered in the 24 hours up to 9am yesterday.

NHS England’s national medical director, Prof Stephen Powis, said: “You will see that testing capacity has ramped up very quickly over the last week or so and we are now at a very high level of testing, over 100,000 – a little bit of a dip in the weekend, but we anticipate that testing capacity will continue to increase.”

The Guardian has learned that just 7% of the 31,000 tests delivered to care homes for residents and staff had been carried out by this weekend.

Thousands of kits are sitting unused, social services chiefs said, because of a lack of clarity about who can administer them.

Residential care homes, which are registered by the Care Quality Commission, are not registered to carry out nursing tasks. Social services officials say they are unsure how far they are allowed to bend the rules on this.

One social services director said: “There’s a major flaw in this plan. Residential care staff are not registered to carry out this procedure. Yesterday not a single person was swabbed in any of our care homes. It’s another fiasco.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “Since we announced the further expansion to all symptomatic and asymptomatic care home staff and residents on 28 April we have delivered almost 31,000 tests. The tests are easy to use, with care workers needing to carry out simple swabs.”

The Care Quality Commission said it was not involved in mass testing in care homes.

The government has admitted “a small number” of the home corona-virus tests sent out did not have the right information to be processed. Baschea Walsh was one of those who reported receiving a test without a return envelope. “I asked how to send it back without a return envelope. I was told to chuck it in the bin – I asked them if they could send me an envelope and they said no, I would need to do a new test.”

A DHSC spokesperson said: “We are urgently seeking to resolve this so anyone affected can either be provided with a new label or order a replacement kit online, which won’t be counted in the daily figures”