In an open letter to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State of Health and Social Care, and Helen Whately Minister for Care, not-for-profit membership organisation the National Care Forum (NCF) is calling for a reversal of the decision to allow Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors into care homes without testing. NCF considers the decision to exclude CQC inspectors from weekly testing prior to visiting care settings to inspect them an extraordinary decision, which is not credible and which is very counter-productive.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the NCF says:
“We welcome scrutiny and oversight by the regulator and we all want the CQC to be able to regulate effectively. However, this must include routine regular testing for those inspectors tasked with conducting on-site inspection visits to care settings.”
Current DHSC policy to limit the spread of COVID and backed by the £600m Infection Control Fund instigated a whole- home testing regime designed to test all staff within care homes, regardless of role. By not testing CQC inspectors, who spend a number of hours on-site in care homes, moving between different groups of residents and staff, and who will be visiting potentially multiple homes and therefore have the potential to transmit the virus as part of their visits, both within care homes and between care homes undermines the policy.
Care homes have worked incredibly hard to make sure they have stringent infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, for those living in care homes, for staff and for visitors, and regular COVID testing of those routinely working in care homes is a key part of these IPC measures to prevent inadvertent asymptomatic transmission of the virus.
“Not providing regular testing for CQC inspectors is an extraordinary decision. For months central government and the regulator have been requiring care homes to essentially eradicate the movement of staff and the flow of people, including close family relatives, into homes. Having done this, care homes are now being asked to let inspectors into homes without knowing whether or not they are COVID positive. Understandably they are both shocked and hugely concerned. If Inspectors are coming in, they need to be tested – there should be no further debate about this. We recognise that testing capacity is always part of these decisions, but it seems likely that it will be a relatively small number of CQC staff who will be front facing and going into homes, so including them in routine regular testing will not have a significant impact on capacity. We call on government to reverse this decision and introduce weekly testing for inspectors immediately.”