Scottish Government health secretary Jeane Freeman has today announced that all care home staff will be offered testing for Covid-19
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Freeman said that Scotland will now move to a position where all care home staff will be offered testing “regardless of symptoms and regardless of whether there is an ongoing outbreak in the care home where they work.”
On Saturday, operator HC-One confirmed that the number of residents to have died following an outbreak of coronavirus at their Home Farm nursing home in Portree had risen to 10, while as of Monday afternoon (18th May) a total of 30 residents and 29 staff members had tested positive for Covid-19.
However, there were earlier concerns around the An Acarsaid home after a worker there tested positive for the virus in the last week of March. Despite the infection, follow-up tests of staff and residents weren’t carried out at that time.
Following an inspection on Tuesday 12th May, the Care Inspectorate identified “serious and significant concerns about the quality of care experienced by residents” at Home Farm.
This led to the care body submitting an application to cancel HC-One’s registration to the sheriff court. A civil case is due to be heard in Inverness Sheriff Court on Wednesday 20th May.
Today, the health secretary said that the new measure was being introduced following clinical advice.
Speaking at the briefing she said: “Should a care home have a case of Covid-19, we have put in place a regime where all residents and staff are tested subject to their consent.
“For care homes that have no current cases of Covid-19, the current position is sample-surveillance of residents and staff, again subject to their consent.
“However, having taken clinical advice, I am taking a further step and will set out the detail of that in Parliament tomorrow.
“The further step is we will now move to a position where all care home staff will be offered testing regardless of symptoms and regardless of whether there is an ongoing outbreak in the care home where they work
“This testing will have to be carried out on a repeating basis to be effective and will help us to protect residents and staff themselves.
“Frontline staff, in both our care sector and elsewhere, deserve as much support as we can give them.”
When questioned at the daily briefing why it had taken so long for these further steps to be taken, the health secretary said: “I don’t accept it has taken so long, what we have done here is what we have done all along which is gather the right clinical views, make sure there is time for that and the evidence, and taken the decision that is right at the time.”
She added: “The evidence that I have relied on for that decision is that the route for the virus into a care home will primarily be through those who work in the care home – because they will be the people going in and out most from the community, bearing in mind that visiting, with one or two exceptions, has been stopped in care homes, residents should be looked after in their rooms and there will be very little in and out traffic to a care home other than those who have worked there.”
Today NHS Highland started testing contact tracing technology as part of a two-week pilot scheme. Test, Trace, Isolate, Support is a public health intervention to identify cases of Covid-19, find the people they have been in close contact with, and then ask those close-contacts to self-isolate for 14 days to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.
A temporary Covid-19 testing centre is in operation at Tigh na Drochaid car park in Portree from today through to Tuesday. The centre will be open from 10 am – 4 pm. The testing centre is available for essential workers and people they live with who are self-isolating because they have symptoms of coronavirus.
Appointments are made through pre-booking only: For more information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test
As of Monday 18th May, there were a total of 331 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Highlands and six in the Western Isles.