Exploring COVID-19 testing in English care homes
Led by the NIHR London In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative, we have analysed the views of care home staff and identified opportunities for refining COVID-19 testing in care homes.
In the first six months of 2020, there were almost 30,000 excess deaths within English and Welsh care homes. Around two thirds of these deaths were associated with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19). The virus can spread rapidly throughout the care home as some residents have symptoms that are difficult to distinguish from other existing conditions.
In a study led by the NIHR London In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative, we conducted detailed interviews with ten staff members from eight care homes and examined their views on current COVID-19 testing. We also investigated whether new rapid COVID-19 tests could overcome the challenges with current testing processes.
This work was supported by the NIHR, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, as a part of the CONDOR (COVID-19 National DiagnOstic Research and Evaluation Platform) national partnership. The study also involved close collaboration with Nottingham University and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration East Midlands.
Our analysis revealed that onsite testing within care homes could help to reduce the current burden associated with requesting and registering offsite laboratory COVID-19 tests. Rapid testing could also help to accommodate the needs of residents with dementia. There was enthusiasm for rapid tests that use samples that require a less invasive collection method than nose and throat swabs. Quicker results would help care home staff decide whether to send residents with suspected COVID-19 to hospital. A faster result would also save residents without COVID-19 from prolonged and unnecessary periods of isolation. However, each technology should be evaluated in the care home setting before being adopted to ensure that it is fit for use.