Care home visitor tests are ’99 per cent accurate’, promptings calls for national roll-out

Care home visitors can receive a 99 per cent accurate covid test, a pilot study has revealed, amid calls for it to be rolled out nationwide.

The results of a landmark pilot study – first reported by The Telegraph in September and carried out in care homes across the country – have revealed that an 85-minute test for the highly infectious disease is “highly accurate”.

The revelation has sparked calls for it to be rolled out nationwide so that families can once again hug their relatives. 

It comes in addition to a new pilot testing scheme being launched by the Department for Health that will see several homes in Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon offered rapid flow tests to allow visits from this week.

Adam Gordon, Professor of the Care of Older People at the University of Nottingham who is leading the care home component of the project, said that the technology “is an effective way to rule out COVID in care home residents and staff”.

“This means that it could be safely used to inform decisions about quarantine of residents and staff. It could also, potentially, be used to more safely open up visiting in care homes.

“The government clearly have multiple competing priorities for new testing technologies.  We have shown that, if they do choose to prioritise care homes, that point of care testing can be done in this setting and could be very helpful for residents, families and that work there.”

What now for care homes abandoned to Covid?

The scheme, called Condor, saw testing machines placed in a sample of care homes to test people for coronavirus through a saliva sample, with results provided in 85 minutes. 

Care home managers said ahead of the pilot that it had the potential to be a “game-changer” regarding enabling relatives and staff to have greater access to residents.

Professor Gordon, who is also a Consultant Geriatrician at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that based upon a pilot conducted in 278 people across four care homes. 

“This could help prevent outbreaks. In addition, the high specificity means it would be a good test for visitors coming to care home. It would enable staff to be more confident allowing visitors to come into the home," he said.

Earlier this month the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) U-turned on allowing care home residents to see family and friends, in accordance with government guidelines.

This means that relatives should visit their loved ones while staying behind floor to ceiling screens or remain in visiting pods A DHSC Spokesperson said:“We are beginning a trial of testing visitors to care homes in the coming days to give families more opportunities to reunite with relatives.”