GP practice nurses have mobilised in East London to test care home residents and staff for Covid-19 every two weeks.
The GP-led service launced four weeks before the Government said all care home staff would be given weekly tests, and residents monthly tests, earlier this month.
Tower Hamlets GP Care Group, which is leading the initiative which covers five care homes for older people in the East London borough, said it launched the programme to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the vulnerable cohort by identifying infection at an earlier stage.
Ruth Walters, director of quality assurance at Tower Hamlets GP Care Group, said: ‘The national scheme sends out swab tests to the homes for them to return.
‘Taking the swab test can be quite difficult and using an incorrect technique can lead to false negatives. Our nurses have also been proactive in discussing the testing with staff and residents and engaging them in the testing programme.’
She added: ‘We started earlier than the national programme and have been working with the teams to ensure results are appropriately acted upon.’
The news comes as England’s largest Covid study showed that 69% of people testing positive reported no symptoms on the day of the test, or the previous week.
Under the scheme, GP practice nurses visit homes and take the swabs to the Royal London Hospital for analysis and processing. The nurses also relay the results to care homes and advise them to act upon positives.
Dr Kamilla Kamaruddin, a GP lead for care homes in Tower Hamlets, said: ‘The primary care workforce has been working very hard to deliver the highest quality of care to these frail patients.’
She added that this has led to ‘avoided’ hospital admissions and has given ‘a lot of reassurance to staff, residents and families’.
Chris Lovitt, Tower Hamlets’ associate director of public health, said: ‘Diagnosing Covid quickly is vital in preventing further spread of the virus, so this ambitious testing programme has helped us to protect some of our most vulnerable residents. It has also enabled us to make sure care homes are supported to manage infections according to best practice.’
It comes as Pulse revealed that many elderly patients are unable to book Covid tests or receive results, due to lacking access to the technology required.
Public Health England’s most recent dashboard update states that there has been a total of 894 confirmed cases of Covid in Tower Hamlets, while the CQC recently concluded that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in care homes are more likely to die with it than white people.
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