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Coronavirus / Care home staff urged to get tested for Covid-19

STAFF working in local care homes are being urged to get tested voluntarily for Covid-19 once a week after recent figures indicated that more than a third of care home staff are not being tested regularly.

Recent figures provided to Shetland News by the public health service show that the number of care home workers who get the self swab test done once a week is growing, though as many as four out of ten care home workers may not get the test on a regular basis.

The Scottish Government introduced the voluntary routine testing programme for those working in care homes on 8 July after thousands of elderly residents died of confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in Scottish care homes.

A recent study by Stirling University found that care homes in Scotland recorded a 62 per cent increase in excess deaths.

Interim director of community health and social care Brian Chittick. Photo: Shetland News

With coronavirus cases rising across the UK, care homes in England have already introduced tighter visitor restrictions.

Interim director of community health and social care Brian Chittick said asymptomatic care home staff are encouraged to take up the offer of routine testing.

“All staff are being urged to consider the safety of the patients and clients that they look after by taking part in the Covid testing programme as well as considering having their flu immunisation this year,” he said.

“This was discussed at the Community Health and Social Care operational meeting with managers asked by the director to relay this important message to their staff.

“The numbers of staff having weekly tests has been increasing which is a positive sign that staff are seeing this as something that will help protect the residents and staff.”

Between 8 July and the end of August more than 2,100 self swab Covid-19 tests were carried out among care home staff.

Although figures can vary depending on who is working on any given day, more than 200 staff were tested each week over the last three weeks in August.

During the week from 21 to 27 August, 62 per cent of staff were tested. Of the 38 per cent who were not tested just eight per cent actively declined the test.

The strategic care home assurance group is looking at ways in which the uptake of testing amongst staff could be increased “especially with the difficulty in coordinating testing of so many of the workforce in remote and rural areas”.

Test results from the Lighthouse lab in Glasgow can usually be expected within two days.

The routine testing programme currently only applies to people working in care homes. Those working in a care in the community setting are not being offered regular testing.

Meanwhile, NHS Shetland confirmed that last week 88 people from across the isles self-referred to the UK Government’s self testing programme after developing Covid-19 symptoms.