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Coronavirus / Regular Covid-19 testing offered to all care home staff

ALL care home staff across the isles are now being offered one Covid-19 swab a week, if they have no symptoms.

This new approach, which is now government policy, will be offered under the “local satellite” arm of the UK Government’s testing scheme, which launched a week ago.

NHS Shetland consultant in public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said all eligible staff would be advised as soon as the new element of the scheme was up and running.

However, the initiative is voluntary and not mandatory for social care staff.

Dr Laidlaw said: “It is Scottish Government policy to offer a weekly test to all care home staff.

“I understand that the rationale for this is that it may identify some staff who are positive for Covid-19 but have no symptoms. Care home staff cannot be ‘forced’ to be swabbed.

She added: “All health and care staff must stay off work and report to their manager if they develop symptoms, and they are swabbed usually the same day.”

Cabinet secretary for health Jeane Freeman came under pressure this week to explain the scale of deaths in Scottish care homes when it emerged that more elderly clients have now died with the virus in care home settings than patients in hospital.

Of the seven deaths associated with coronavirus in Shetland five occurred in the Wastview care home in April. The total number of confirmed cases in Shetland continues to be 54 with no new cases found since the end of April.

A recent report by NHS Shetland’s director of public health Susan Webb confirmed that operations at local care homes were “absolutely in line with guidance at the time”.

Since then more stringent measures have been imposed by the Scottish Government.

A spokesperson for the Shetland Islands Council said: “There is very close liaison between NHS Shetland and Shetland Islands council staff around testing for Covid-19 in care staff.

“Each care home is being offered tests as per government guidance.  Those staff who request tests will have them carried out by relevant NHS staff.”

Under the UK Government testing scheme swabs are analysed at the Lighthouse Laboratory in Glasgow. However, some of the test swabs can be “re-routed” to the local lab if appropriate and if capacity allows.