CARE home coronavirus testing ‘should have been a priority’, according to a new report by Cheshire West and Chester councillors.

The report, authored by CWAC’s pandemic response and recovery scrutiny committee, examines how care homes and domiciliary care providers responded to the pandemic.

A previous investigation by the Northwich Guardian showed that 112 elderly residents were sent from Leighton Hospital wards into care homes without being tested for Covid-19.

The report admitted there had been problems on this front: “A protocol had been adopted locally to ensure that a person would not be discharged to a care home from hospital without a negative Covid test. This local approach was implemented before the Government issued its guidance.

“It was confirmed that there hadn’t been any patients discharged from the Countess of Chester but there had been only been a few from Mid-Cheshire i.e. Leighton.

“The policy was in place to prevent anyone from being transferred to Care Homes before they underwent a Covid test.”

Concern for testing did not stop there, with care home managers finding: “Delays and availability of testing for staff and residents was expressed as a concern. Delays in receiving results had also impacted on staffing levels and isolating residents.

“Coordinating test results [also] became a full time job for a member of the team. Various approaches to testing have taken place, including home testing. Care Home should have been a priority for testing.”

Domiciliary care providers — i.e. care given to those in the home — also found that ‘testing has been an issue’, but noted that very few positive tests had been recorded ‘amongst their clients’.

As well as finding that testing should have been handled differently, concerns were raised over data collection — and the communication of national guidance.

The crux of the data issue was that care homes were being asked to provide multiple agencies similar pieces of information on a regular basis, resulting in ‘unnecessary duplication and work’.

To that end, in the report's recommendations, it suggests developing a ‘single point of contact’ for care homes to provide requested data to.

>>READ MORE: Investigation reveals Leighton Hospital discharged coronavirus cases to care homes

Guidance was also a problem area: “Following concerns raised about the volume of changing guidance, a suggestion was made regarding an executive summary being produced to help reduce the time needed by care workers to absorb the information.

“In principle this was thought to be a good way forward but reservations were noted, in that in some cases as soon as the executive summary was drafted, the guidance could have changed again.”

Despite the negatives, the report did find some successes in the sector’s response — chief amongst which was PPE provision, with providers able to order equipment from CWAC seven days a week leading to care homes having a ‘constant supply’.

Furthermore, staff resilience and work-ethic was found to have remained strong as the pandemic progressed, although the report did warn of potential falls in mental well-being as the second wave takes hold.

The report will be discussed by CWAC’s pandemic response and recovery scrutiny committee meeting at 6pm on Wednesday, October 28.