Staff working in home care organisations will continue to have free access to COVID-19 testing after 1st April

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Updated: 1st April 2022

Staff working in home care organisations will continue to have free access to both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID testing after 1st April however people being cared for in their own home will no longer have free access to testing unless they are eligible for community COVID-19 treatments.

The Government made this announcement as they outlined their next steps of living with COVID that will come into effect on 1st April.

Under the latest plans

Free symptomatic testing will be provided for:

  • Patients in hospital, where a PCR test is required for their care and to provide access to treatments and to support ongoing clinical surveillance for new variants;
  • People who are eligible for community COVID-19 treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. People in this group will be contacted directly and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home for use if they have symptoms as well as being told how to reorder tests;
  • People being discharged from hospital into care homes, hospices.
  • People living or working in some high-risk settings. This includes:
    • Staff in adult social care services such as homecare organisations and care homes
    • Residents in care homes and extra care and supported living services
    • NHS workers
    • People working and living in hospices
    • Prisons and places of detention (including immigration removal centres), where infection needs to be identified quickly to minimise outbreaks.

Asymptomatic lateral flow testing will continue from April in some high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly while prevalence is high.

This includes:

  • patient-facing staff in the NHS and NHS-commissioned Independent Healthcare Providers
  • staff in hospices and adult social care services, such as homecare organisations and care homes
  • a small number of care home visitors who provide personal care
  • staff in some prisons and places of detention and in high risk domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings.

In addition, testing will be provided for residential SEND, care home staff and residents during an outbreak and for care home residents upon admission. This also includes some staff in prisons and immigration removal centres.

The latest guidance for COVID-19 testing in adult social care can be found here.

Most visitors to adult social care settings (unless providing personal care to residents) and visitors to the NHS, prisons or places of detention will no longer be required to take a test.

A number of changes and new guidance for Adult Social Care have also been announced including:

  • From 1 April, those working in adult social care services will also continue to receive free personal protective equipment (PPE). Priority vaccinations and boosters for residents and staff will also continue.
  • Designated settings will be removed. These were initially set up to provide a period of isolation to COVID-19 positive patients before they move into care homes and before routine point of care testing for COVID-19 was available.
  • Restrictions on staff movement within adult social care residential settings will be removed
  • Outbreak management periods in care homes, which can include visiting restrictions, have been reduced from 14 to 10 days
  • People aged 75 and over, residents in care homes for elderly adults and those who are immunosuppressed are now eligible to receive a Spring booster jab to top up their immunity to COVID-19. Around five million people will be eligible for a Spring booster around six months after their previous dose, and the NHS has contacted over 600,000 people inviting them to book an appointment. Anyone who has not yet had a COVID-19 jab continues to be encouraged to take up the ‘evergreen’ offer.
  • Updated hospital discharge guidance will be published setting out how all involved in health and social care will work together to ensure smooth discharges from hospital and people receive the right care at the right time in the right place
  • Updated guidance on infection and prevention control measures have been published to set out long-standing principles on good practice, and support consistency across the adult social care sector. This will include details on future measures for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses to ensure providers have the latest information on best practice which will include information on admissions, visiting and PPE.
  • Updated guidance for adult social care providers and staff to set out the current testing regime across adult social care.

Other announcements also made on 30th March:

  • Community Infection Survey delivered through the Office for National Statistics will continue to provide a detailed national surveillance capability in the coming year so the government can respond appropriately to emerging developments such as a new variant of concern or changing levels of population infection.
  • Infections in health and care settings will also be monitored through bespoke studies including the Vivaldi study in residential care homes, the SIREN study in the NHS, and RCGP surveillance in primary care.
  • The government has retained the ability to enable a rapid testing response should it be needed, such as the emergence of a new variant of concern.This includes a stockpile of lateral flow tests and the ability to ramp up testing laboratories and delivery channels.
  • The government’s Therapeutics Taskforce and Antiviral Taskforce will also be merged into a single unit which will continue to focus on securing access to the most promising treatments for COVID-19.

Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said:

“As we learn to live with Covid, we are focusing our testing provision on those at higher risk of serious outcomes from the virus, while encouraging people to keep following simple steps to help keep themselves and others safe.”

“The pandemic is not over and how the virus will develop over time remains uncertain. Covid still poses a real risk to many of us, particularly with case rates and hospitalisations on the rise. That is why it is sensible to wear a mask in enclosed spaces, keep indoor spaces ventilated and stay away from others if you have any symptoms of a respiratory illness, including Covid.”

“Vaccination remains the best way to protect us all from severe disease and hospitalisation due to Covid infection. If you have not yet come forward for your primary or booster I would urge you to do so straight away – the NHS vaccine programme is there to help you and the sooner you are vaccinated the sooner you and your family and friends will be protected.”