Rapid Testing Brings Hope Regarding Easing Visiting Restrictions in Care Homes

Researchers claim that rapid covid-19 tests will make it easier for relatives to visit care home residents isolated by the pandemic.

A trial, which took place at four care homes in England, suggests tests by staff are as accurate as those done in hospitals and that, in time, they could be offered to relatives and friends in addition to staff and residents.

Many care homes first shut their doors to visitors eight months ago to try to protect residents from the spread of coronavirus. But with visits still very limited, families argue the restrictions are causing huge distress and confusion, particularly for residents with dementia.

One of the homes taking part in the trial has set up a small Covid-19 testing centre in its outbuildings and staff have had special training. They take throat and nasal swabs, place them in a solution and then put the sample in a machine that runs the test. It can do eight tests at once and takes 85 minutes to provide results. Next, they will trial a machine that takes just 15 minutes to run a single test.

Professor Adam Gordon, president-elect of the British Geriatric Society, says care home staff have found the technology relatively easy to use, with a very low error rate. He says the system "gets it right in 99 cases out of every 100 tests that are done - that's about as good as a diagnostic test could be. And it means that care home staff are delivering this test with the same level of specificity that we see when it's used in hospitals."

They still have to finalise results, but expect to send a report to the government within weeks. Professor Gordon believes rapid testing will make a real difference.

At the moment, all care staff in England have access to weekly testing and residents are tested monthly, but it can take several days for the laboratory results to come back. Rapid tests run by individual homes should make it easier to check people on the day they want to visit, but it is not clear how that would work in practice.

The government says a pilot scheme to test the safety and practicalities of testing visitors will begin on 16 November, involving 30 homes, across four local authority areas where there is a low prevalence of Covid-19.

The research is part of the Covid-19 National Diagnostic Research and evaluation programme, or Condor, to look into the use of new technologies in the fight against coronavirus. It is funded by the National Institute for Health Research and backed by the government.

To read more this story in full please visit: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54843815

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