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Supporting health and social care providers in Devon

Testing (COVID-19)

Last Updated 14:45pm, 29 November 2021


Key COVID-19 information sources

If you have any specific issues or questions that you would like to raise please do so as follows:

Testing for adult social care settings

Overall social care testing guidance

Coronavirus testing for anyone working in adult social care who are not part of regular testing at work and unpaid carers

PCR test kits delivered by the DHSC

In Devon we have experienced a small number of providers reporting the short shelf life of PCR test kits received. We have been advised by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that all PCR tests sent in the future will have at least three months of shelf life on the day of dispatch.

To ensure you are using valid tests and most importantly, minimise the chance of void results, it is important to:

  • Always take note of the expiry date when managing your inventory and use the tests in the order they were received. Please check the expiry date on the box and sample the expiry dates stamped on the tests kits within the box to ensure they match.
  • Dispose of any tests that have expired, or are within seven days of expiry.

If you have been delivered test kits with a shelf life of less than three months please email us: adultsc.covid19workforcetesting-mailbox@devon.gov.uk with the following information: date of delivery and expiry date as noted on the box or test kit. The testing team will then follow this up with the DHSC.

Which test is appropriate and when

We’re hearing of people with symptoms of coronavirus, using the rapid lateral flow testing kits to establish whether they have the virus and then getting on with their day. But anyone with symptoms should self-isolate and arrange a PCR test and stay self-isolating pending the result.

Testing in care homes

All care homes can now apply for coronavirus testing kits to test residents and staff, regardless of whether or not anyone has coronavirus symptoms via the National Testing Portal. Read more about whole care home testing.
Care homes should receive regular COVID-19 testing updates directly from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) via email.
If you aren’t successfully receiving it, please contact the DHSC (119) in the first instance to check the email address they have for your organisation.

Testing is, however, only one part of the approach to reduce risk and it is critical that visiting professionals don and doff PPE appropriately and follow the relevant infection control measures when visiting a care home including hand hygiene and distancing, in order to help keep care home residents and staff safe.

Testing guidance for professionals visiting care homes

There is now a Devon wide guidance for health and social care professionals visiting care homes, which builds on the national guidance for professionals visiting care homes.

The guidance provides clarity for professional visitors about what is required to promote safe access into a care home with an ethos of working with the home to meet their safe visiting policy.

Free home testing kits for social care workers

Front facing health and social care staff is being encouraged to take a free rapid coronavirus test twice a week using Lateral Flow Devices. Alongside vaccine roll-out, regular testing is at the heart of plans to reopen society and the economy, helping to suppress and control the spread of variants.

How to order home-testing kits

All front line staff, including personal assistants, can order and collect testing kits at the same time as their free PPE supplies using this simple online request form.

All collections are arranged in advance, please do not turn up without an agreed collection time. Staff can order as an individual or on behalf of their team and can collect two packs of home test kits per staff member. Each pack contains seven tests.

Emergency supply of test kits is also available via this route if any providers who already test weekly are having problems accessing tests through normal routes.

90 Days Testing Policy

The Government has published a note explaining the policy relating to the 14-90 day time period since positive COVID-19 test result. The note provides clarity on section 4.3 of the existing guidance, and does not include any new policy. The note aims to communicate the policy more clearly to acute staff and care homes and provides a step-by-step process to determine whether it is appropriate for the person to be discharged into a normal care home setting without having to enter and isolate in a designated care setting. A PDF version of the note is also attached.

Discharge into care homes: Designated Settings

The Department of Health and Social Care have recently published updated guidance ‘Discharge into Care Homes: Designated Settings’.

This guidance builds on the previous letters that were sent to Directors of Adult Social Care over recent months and clarifies the times where a designated setting must be used. It also sets out the actions discharge teams must undertake before a discharge can be made for any individual who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The priority remains that everyone receives the right care, in the right place, at the right time, whilst ensuring the prevention of virus transmission in care homes.

Hospital Discharges into care homes

The guidance makes it clear that every patient must receive a COVID-19 PCR test result within 48 hours prior to discharge. No one will be discharged into, or back into, a registered care home setting without being tested and having received their test result. Crucially, individuals will be clinically assessed prior to discharge no-one will be discharged if the receiving care home is not able to meet the individuals needs. A detailed ‘hand-over’ is expected in all cases.

Any individual who tests positive must be discharged into a ‘designated setting’ for a 14-day isolation period. Within Devon the only designated settings are currently NHS facilities.

The guidance does however, allow for immunocompetent individuals (those who have a normal immune response) who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 by PCR, and who have already completed their 14-day isolation period, to be exempt from testing prior to hospital discharge within a period of 90 days from their initial illness onset or test (if asymptomatic), unless they develop new COVID-19 symptoms.

Where a person is retested within 90 days from their initial illness and they are found to still be positive for COVID-19, a clinically led approach should be used to interpret the result prior to their discharge back to (or into a new) Care Home i.e. if they are asymptomatic and testing positive they can still be discharged following clinical review, and in agreement with the Care Home.

Requirements on Hospital Discharge Teams when arranging a discharge into a care home:

  • Ensure everyone being discharged into a care home has a time-stamped reported COVID-19 test result, and this must be communicated to the person themselves and the care home prior to the person being discharged from hospital
  • A COVID-19 test does not need to be completed for immunocompetent individuals who had previously tested positive within a period of 90 days from their initial illness onset or test (if asymptomatic), unless they develop new COVID-19 symptoms
  • No care home should be forced to admit an existing or new resident to the care home if they are unable to cope with the impact of the person’s COVID-19 illness
  • If the individual is not able to be discharged into their existing Care Home (due to the point above) alternative short-term placement could be considered
  • Where a placement cannot be agreed, Hospital Discharge Teams should escalate this to the local QAIT team to support a direct communication with the Care Home to understand the specific challenges and how a home may be supported.

Requirements for care homes when agreeing an admission:

  • Care Home Registered Manager must assure themselves that they have received a time-stamped reported COVID-19 test result before accepting the admission
  • A COVID-19 test does not need to be completed for immunocompetent individuals who had previously tested positive within a period of 90 days from their initial illness onset or test (if asymptomatic), unless they develop new COVID-19 symptoms
  • From 17 August 2021 the rules around isolation of new residents have changed, please follow this guidance
  • If a Care Home Manager is asked to accept an admission, and would like further guidance or support prior to accepting the admission, please contact your local QAIT team for support.

Testing in Adult Social Care graphics and guidance

Graphic summarising tests available for Adults Social Care in England

Care home testing guidance for residents and staff: PCR and LFD (England)

Testing for domiciliary care staff / homecare workers

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has made regular weekly asymptomatic Coronavirus testing available to all registered home care workers (domiciliary care workers) from 23 November. The scheme uses PCR test kits with combined throat and nasal swabs.

The guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for homecare workers sets out how regulated providers can order their regular tests.

Once the test kits have arrived, the agency manager should make arrangements to distribute a 4-week supply to every home care worker or arrange for staff to collect them.

Due to availability of lab capacity and to ensure faster turnaround of results, testing must only be carried out on Thursday – Sunday inclusive (for Sunday testing staff must be able to access a priority post box with a Sunday collection.

To ensure that all of your homecare workers are accurately registering tests every week, an interactive one page document has been created for agency managers to distribute to homecare workers. The one-page document allows managers to fill in their organisations UON, employer name and can be distributed digitally or physically.

Please continue to encourage and re-emphasise the importance of conducting weekly testing and of registering each test correctly to your homecare workers.

Many managers have set up a system for tracking test kit results in their agency. A system like this will help you to have evidence of each staff member’s PCR registration every week.

Testing for extra care and supported living settings

Extra care and supported living services can register for regular COVID-19 testing. Regular retesting involves weekly staff testing and monthly resident testing. Supported living services are now able to access the rapid lateral flow device (LFD) testing, in addition to the existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing regime.

To register your organisation please visit this webpage.

For high risk supported living and extra care setting, who qualify for LFD, please make your order for LFD tests for your organisation via GOV.UK.

Visitors to extra care and supported living settings can now conduct a rapid lateral flow self-test at home, at the discretion of setting managers. Testing on site remains the preference for assurance reasons.

Visitors must report all tests online and using the Unique Organisation Number (UON) of your setting. Housing or support managers should ensure visitors are aware of the setting’s UON.

Please read the updated policy on visiting and testing in extra care and supported living settings.

Day care centres now have a similar testing regime to care homes and some extra care and supported living settings of weekly PCR and twice weekly LFT for staff. In addition, where possible, service users are being asked to conduct twice weekly LFT.

Currently, care home residents and some extra care and supported living residents conduct monthly PCR testing as part of their regular testing regime.

Where service users are part of regular monthly PCR testing and have taken a PCR test in the same week as their visit to a day care centre and received their result, they do not need to also do rapid LFTs that week. They should continue doing regular LFTs if visiting the day care centre on all other weeks.

Free to download COVID-19 information and consent form in an easy read format. The purpose of this document is to help services to support individuals in understanding what COVID-19 is and what the testing process involves. This will support informed decisions and the document is able to capture the consent for the procedure.

Testing for day centre workers

Rapid Lateral Flow Testing is now available for all staff and service users in adult day care centres in England

After the completion of a successful pilot study, DHSC are pleased to inform you that NHS Test and Trace is making regular lateral flow testing available to all staff and service users in adult day care centres in England, to be conducted alongside the existing weekly staff PCR testing.

Please follow this link to view the guidance in full and instructions on how to begin testing.

Further daycare resources:

Testing for personal assistants

Following The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) review of testing for personal assistants and consultation with the sector, DHSC are pleased to announce that testing for personal assistants has moved to twice weekly rapid Lateral Flow Testing (LFT), with confirmatory PCR tests for a positive test. Further information can be found on the Government’s website.

Staff are also able to access tests via the Devon County Community Testing page.

DHSC COVID-19 testing enquiries

The Department of Health and Social Care created a new email address: carehometesting@dhsc.gov.uk to support social care providers with their testing queries and to chase tests results.

Swabbing guidance

Public Health have produced guidance on the use of swabs.

How to report symptoms and confirmed COVID-19 test results in your social care provision

For symptomatic clients the following protocol needs to be followed:

  1. Alert DCC by emailing: adultsc.adultcarehealthcovid19-mailbox@devon.gov.uk. All symptomatic cases need to be flagged irrespective of whether they are DCC, CCG, DPT or self-funded.
  2. For regulated: providers must update CQC Home Care Tracker (Personal Care) or Care Homes Tracker (Care Homes).

For symptomatic staff or those who are required to self-isolate the following protocol needs to be followed:

  1. Alert DCC by emailing: adultsc.adultcarehealthcovid19-mailbox@devon.gov.uk.
  2. For regulated: providers must update CQC Home Care Tracker (Personal Care) or Care Homes Tracker (Care Homes).

For confirmed cases following a positive test result immediately take these actions in addition to the above:

  1. Notify Public Health Devon by calling 0300 303 8162, Option 1 then Option 1 again or email swhpt@phe.gov.uk
  2. Alert DCC by emailing: adultsc.adultcarehealthcovid19-mailbox@devon.gov.uk.
  3. For regulated: providers must update CQC Home Care Tracker (Personal Care) or Care Homes Tracker (Care Homes).
  4. For staff members only: A RIDDOR report is required where the member of staff is known to have contracted coronavirus through contact with a confirmed positive case through the course of their work.
    Reporting should be made in accordance with advice offered by the Health & Safety Executive.

Are you eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment?

The government has updated its guidance about claiming financial support if you’re told to self-isolate.

If you have been told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, and you’re eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment or a discretionary payment, you will receive £500 in addition to any benefits and Statutory Sick Pay that you currently receive.

You are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment if you live in England and meet the government’s criteria.

If you are a parent or a guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate by their education setting or by NHS Test and Trace, and you are therefore unable to attend work due to childcare responsibilities, you might also be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment or discretionary payment, if you meet the government’s criteria.
The government’s website tells you how to apply.

Test and Trace: response to provider queries

Guidance on the national Test and Trace service was updated in August 2021.

Since then, we have received a number of enquiries from providers raising concerns at the potential impact on the availability of staff in their settings given the potential for self-isolation.

Please note this published guidance signposts to separate guidance for health and care workers on testing which was updated on 31 May 2020. This followed publication of a letter from Ros Roughton, Director General of Social Care at DHSC, which outlined how the test and trace guidance about isolating after ‘close contact’ with someone with symptoms or COVID-19, would apply to care settings.

This specifies that the process for such staff is different depending on whether the contact was made in the community or in a health and care work setting.

In the former case, the guidance applies as it does to any other person – refer to the Test and Trace guidance.

In the latter case, if the contact occurred when the staff member was wearing appropriate PPE for the setting and activity, no further action is usually required.

If appropriate PPE was not being used, or there was a breach in the PPE, then this should be reported to the person’s line manager who is asked to carry out a risk assessment as detailed in section 9 of the guidance.

This puts further emphasis on the correct usage of PPE appropriate to the activity and setting. It also puts emphasis on the importance of social distancing when not wearing PPE in the work setting including in staff rooms when taking breaks. And also in doing all we can to limit the number of staff working in a setting as highlighted in Restricting workforce movement between care homes and other care settings guidance.

Pausing contact tracing

Healthcare workers are encouraged to download and use the NHS COVID-19 app. However, they are advised to pause contact tracing while they are working in healthcare buildings, including hospitals and GP surgeries. This advice is being given as healthcare workers are working in highly specialised secure environments, trained in infection prevention and control processes, and wearing medical grade PPE as required. Specialist contact tracing controls are in place to understand how staff are moving around the building and when they are at risk of contracting coronavirus.

How and when should I pause contact tracing?

How home care providers can support Test and Trace

Staff from NHS Test and Trace or other public health professionals may contact home care providers if one of their staff or service users has tested positive for coronavirus in order to alert those who have been in close contact with them.

Home care providers can assist NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record of their care staff and recipients of care. Many providers will already have the necessary record systems to store and provide this information on request. In these cases, providers do not need to duplicate records.

If you do not currently have a system to record this information, this should be done in a way that is manageable for your business, but sufficiently detailed to effectively support NHS Test and Trace.

It is recommended that providers ensure that their systems are set up in such a way that this information can be reported rapidly on request and identify the person(s) who can produce this information at short notice.
If a provider is contacted, the following information may be requested at short notice:

  • the name and telephone number for a home care worker
  • the dates and times that a home care worker is at work
  • a log of the care worker’s visits to individuals receiving care for the previous 21 days. This should include, where possible, arrival and departure times of their visit, as well as a record of the name and residence of any individual(s) they provided care to (‘the client’)
  • the name and telephone number of the client and/or the client’s representative
  • the names and telephone numbers of other home care workers, when working in close proximity (for example, during a ‘double up’ visit)

National guidance for home care contains further information and there is guidance on How NHS Test and Trace works and on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors.

Antibody testing for all adult social care staff

The Government have launched a new at-home antibody testing service which is now available to all staff in the adult social care sector in England.

The Department of Health and Social Care are inviting all staff in the adult social care sector to register. Please encourage your staff sign up on the portal

People who are eligible for the antibody test are personal assistants who provide care and support, staff working in residential care, domiciliary care, extra care, supported living, and local authority adult social care departments.

An antibody test result can only tell an individual whether or not they have had the virus in the past and developed antibodies. Therefore, regardless of the result of an antibody test, individuals must continue to comply with government guidelines, including wearing PPE and social distancing.

This testing is separate from weekly swab retesting and outbreak testing by PHE and local HPTs, and that swab retesting of all staff and residents in care homes continues as a priority, even if individuals receive a positive antibody test result.

Find out more about what an antibody test is.

All questions about booking antibody tests should be sent to antibodytesting@dhsc.gov.uk and 119 are able to answer questions and provide support with regards to antibody test results.

Community testing

A community testing programme provides free lateral flow tests that deliver rapid results, typically within 30 minutes.

Why are we doing community testing?

Community testing helps find individuals who have COVID-19 but do not have symptoms and need to isolate and who may inadvertently be spreading the virus.

Community testing will complement but not substitute national coronavirus testing. People with symptoms should still book a test through the NHS website.

Who is eligible?

Everyone in England is eligible for a free rapid COVID-19 test known as a lateral flow test (LFT), twice a week.

How can I access LFT?

Please visit the DCC main testing webpage for further details on community LFT testing including how to book a test.

If you have any questions please contact us: adultsc.covid19workforcetesting-mailbox@devon.gov.uk.

Home testing and visual impairment

NHS Test and Trace has been working in partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People to improve the home testing service for people with visual impairments, including an information line you can call to hear a recorded version of the instructions and a live video assistance service.

You can read the full story on the government’s website.


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