Suffolk County Council’s Suffolk-wide Care Homes Group, made up of representatives from the NHS, Social Care, Public Health the Care Homes sector meets twice per week.
Resident testing is a priority and the Group is currently working through the complex and confusing current environment to plan who gets tested when, given the changing national guidance and initiatives.
SCC’s Care Homes Group has agreed and established the following arrangements:
- All care homes are contacted by Suffolk County Council daily to check in and understand any support they require including any residents who are in need of testing. Each home is RAG rated daily based on a number of factors including the number of residents who may have COVID-19. On a daily basis a log of all homes who require testing including numbers are sent to our local testing provider – Commisceo. Commisceo are then visiting homes and carrying out resident testing and sending through to the Addenbrookes lab for testing. Results are now coming back to Commisceo to inform the homes. There have been delays to this as a result of the volume of tests being undertaken more broadly and we are working as a system how we improve this. Care homes are also expected to contact Public Health England (PHE) directly if they have an outbreak and they also then PHE send details through to Commisceo and the process is then followed as above.
- We are due to make a decision early next week on widening out care home testing to care homes which have not yet informed us of outbreaks and need for testing so that we can understand the degree to which there may be possible COVID-19 in our other care homes. We are working with system partners to not only work through the sheer logistics of how we effectively test hundreds of residents and the frequency and also what support we can put into place with care homes if and when they do have outbreaks.
- The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been asked nationally to now also provide support to care homes through directly sending them swabbing equipment to carry out their own testing and then send to labs by courier with results coming back. We understand that testing for all care home residents and staff, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, will change to ‘Whole Home’ testing through the national portal. Outbreaks in care settings will continue to be reported to PHE for health protection and infection control measures but, through a unique CQC identifier, PHE will be able to prioritise the care setting for the delivery of self-swab tests through the national portal. Up to 30,000 tests a day will be made available (out of 100,000) for the care settings. We are working through the implications of this and it works with the above processes we have put into place locally.
In respect of our current local arrangements as outlined in 1. above care providers need to contact email@example.com with some key details about the people they require testing and this will be collated on a daily basis and sent to the organisations that are doing the tests. This will also continue over the weekend as we have officers on the rota all weekend.
In terms of staff testing all care sector staff can access to Ipswich testing facility seven days a week for testing and we are working to open up access to the testing facilities at our two local acute hospitals. It is likely that we will also receive further guidance from Public Health England shortly on the governments plan to widen out testing of staff still further but as part of our work locally with are working with Commisceo to see if this can be done sooner.
Currently we are encouraging Volunteers to sign up to the app as individuals by downloading it onto their smartphones. The App is Tribe Volunteer (not tribe social action). Once downloaded they are encouraged to input their information regarding location, email address, as well as providing information in the biography section about them such as skills, interests, whether they are involved in a local response already. The app also enables them if appropriate to upload information regarding any DBS certification which is also helpful for task allocation.
The other thing to add is that we are about to unlock further functionality with the app which includes how we connect with local groups. This will enable the coordinators of local responses to use the app as a way of connecting with their volunteers and allocating work directly. This functionality is being finalised at the moment, and we are looking at how this is rolled out in areas, so if this parish are interested we would welcome the chance to work with them. If you wish to take this up please emailAndrew.firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you can see locally through collaboration with our public sector colleagues we have a comprehensive testing, communication and support plan in place for our care homes.