GOVERNMENT ministers have been accused of 'betraying' care homes for failing to provide coronavirus tests for all staff and residents.
Last month the government pledged to provide testing regardless of symptoms but one survey found only one in four staff who displayed symptoms were actually screened for the deadly bug that has decimated some nursing homes.
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Tests for care workers in need were promised by government officials on April 15, with the pledge extended two weeks later for all staff and residents of English care homes regardless of symptoms.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the daily Downing Street press conference on April 28: "Anyone living or working in care homes can now get access to a test whether they have symptoms or not.
"We will be rolling out testing of asymptomatic residents and staff in care homes in England.
"This means anyone who is working or living in a care home will be able to get access to a test, whether they have symptoms or not."
But a survey by the National Care Forum and as reported by the Daily Mail found fewer than one in four care home staff who fear they have coronavirus have been screened – with many care homes saying they can’t get any tests at all.
Rachel Beckett, chairman of the Wellburn chain which has 14 care homes across the North East, told the newspaper: "These promised tests for all just don’t exist.
"I’d say to Matt Hancock, don’t stand on a platform and make a promise that you can’t carry out."
Earlier in the week she argued: "The NHS had billions and billions written off their debt. We’re a care sector as well, you’d think we’d be getting something".
These promised tests for all just don’t exist.
Mark Ellison, who owns Temple Grove Care Home in East Sussex, also says he has had no luck getting his staff and 65 residents tested.
He explained: "There’s a complete variance between what the Government is saying and what’s happening."
Mr Ellison, 46, said he had been unable to get tests for residents through the post and said the NHS used "emotionally bullying tactics" to pressure him into taking untested hospital patients.
Jayne Connery, head of Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, said: "It’s a total contradiction and betrayal of care home residents and staff."
It’s a total contradiction and betrayal of care home residents and staff.
Since Mr Hancock’s promise on April 28, many care home bosses said the only information they have received about testing was in an email the following day from the Care Quality Commission on behalf of Public Health England.
The email reportedly said that "only residents that are self-isolating because they are symptomatic" are eligible.
It added: "Tests should be carried out on people who have been symptomatic for more than 48 hours but less than seven days."
PHE said these were tests that have always been available and were different from those promised by the Department of Health.
Data collected last week by the National Care Forum which represents non-profit providers, suggests just 22 per cent of care home staff needing tests have had them.
The NCF collected data from 38 members which together employ almost 31,262 care staff.
Of the 6,469 residential care staff needing tests due to displaying symptoms, only 1,436 had been tested.
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Care providers spoke of being unable to successfully use the employer portal, unanswered emails to register and carers being asked to travel a round trip of up to 120 miles for a test.
Vic Rayner, executive director of the NCF, said: "The Government’s promise to provide tests for all staff is exposed as pure words. Social care needs to be systematically prioritised in each and every testing system in order for Government to live up to its commitment."
Labour MP Liz Kendall, the shadow minister for social care, agreed there had been "desperately low levels of testing".
She added: "These people are suffering with coronavirus symptoms and don’t often have their own cars. It is madness – the Government doesn’t understand how real people’s lives work."
The news comes as hospitals reportedly sent elderly patients back to unwitting care homes despite knowing they had coronavirus – triggering deadly outbreaks.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) received reports that several hospitals returned the infected patients to at-risk residential homes.
These patients then triggered outbreaks that killed both elderly residents and staff, who were unaware of the virus risk and wore inadequate PPE.
In an address to the nation, Boris Johnson last night pledged to increase testing in care homes, saying: "We must reverse rapidly the awful epidemics in care homes and in the NHS".
CARE HOME TRAGEDY
More than 6,000 people have died of coronavirus in care homes across England and Wales, shocking figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed.
Almost a third of all coronavirus deaths were in care homes after the deadly bug hit some of the most vulnerable in our society.
The deaths of at least 6,686 care home residents in England and Wales between April 10 and May 1 involved coronavirus.
And almost four times as many people are dying in care homes as usual at this time of year – showing how the disease has ripped through the homes in Britain.
Coronavirus is also present in around 13.5 per cent of all care homes in the UK amid fears staff do not have the protection needed to tackle the killer bug.
The government is now including deaths outside of hospital in their daily death toll, which currently stands at 31,855 in total.
A further 269 more people died on Sunday – the lowest rise since March.
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