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COVID-19 testing paused in NHS and care homes

Published on 25/08/22 at 08:58am

The UK government has shared that most hospital patients and care home residents in England will no longer be tested for COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. Further, from 31 August, NHS England and social care staff will also not be offered lateral flow tests, unless they are symptomatic.

The Department of Health and Social care has shared that immunocompromised patients in hospitals and people being admitted into care homes and hospices will also continue to be tested.

Settings where asymptomatic testing of staff and patients or residents will be paused include: the NHS (including independent health care providers treating NHS patients); adult social care and hospice services (apart from new admissions); parts of the prison estate and some places of detention; and certain domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings.

The department shared that “testing will remain in place for admissions into care homes and hospices from both hospitals and the community, and for transfers for immunocompromised patients into and within hospital to protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said:

“COVID-19 case rates and hospitalisations are on the decline, demonstrating the positive impact of the vaccines, which remain our best form of defence. The data from our surveillance shows prevalence is low and decreasing, and we will continue to monitor this data closely.”

However, a number of professionals in the NHS disagree, and are concerned about the impact stopping COVID-19 testing will have on the most vulnerable.

Patricia Marquis, Royal College of Nursing Director for England, commented: “Cases of COVID-19 may well be falling but this virus has still not gone away, and it is vital that there is continued vigilance to ensure patients and nursing staff are not put at risk.

“Nursing staff must continue to have access to free testing and high-quality personal protective equipment.

“We have all come a long way and must not risk any backwards step when health services are already under enormous pressure.”

The government has shared that guidance on testing high-risk settings will follow shortly.

Ana Ovey

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