Thursday, 11 June 2020

Testing, Testing Testing

The Scottish Government is getting a lot of flak over its failure to deliver on Covid-19 testing for care home staff.

The latest daily testing figure for Scotland is 4,747 whereas the government claims to have sufficient capacity to test 15,000 people a day.

The testing regime appears to be in chaos with the Scottish Government claiming yesterday that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had carried out only 17 tests this week - when the true figure was 1127.


Coronavirus: Only a few per cent of care home staff tested despite SNP pledge

By Tom Gordon - The Herald

AS few as one in 25 of Scotland's care home staff were tested for coronavirus last week, despite the SNP Government announcing universal routine testing three weeks ago.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced on May 18 that all 53,000 care home staff would be offered routine tests to help cut infections among residents.

However the national policy has not been delivered in practice at a local level, with the 14 regional health boards moving at different speeds.

If all care home staff were being tested each week, they would consume more than 7000 tests every day.

However the most tests conducted in Scotland since the policy was set - including tests for members of the public and other key workers - is 6,518.

The first data on staff testing showed huge variations around the country and levels well below the 7000-plus required each day.

It showed 11,195 tests in total had been conducted by health boards on care home staff up to June 7, with only 2,243 conduced last week, or just 4.2% of the staff numbers.

The cumulative tests total ranged from 20 conducted by NHS Orkney, where there have been no Covid deaths in care homes, to 2,665 tests run by NHS Lothian, where there have been 409 deaths.

However NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, where there have been 595 care home Covid deaths, the most in Scotland, had conducted only 920 staff tests.

NHS Greater Glasgow had the lowest ratio of staff tests per care home death at 1.5, followed by NHS Lanarkshire, where the ratio was 2.6 staff tests for each of its 225 deaths.

NHS Lothian has run 6.5 staff tests for every care home Covid death, NHS Fife 10.6, NHS Forth Valley 19.3, and NHS Borders 38.1 staff tests for each of its 9 deaths.

A note on the data stressed it covered only tests conducted by NHS laboratories, and did not include tests carried out by UK regional testing centres in Scotland’s big cities.

It said the numbers were therefore “likely to be an underestimate” of testing for staff.

However, on the flip side, the data only disclosed the number of tests performed, rather than the number of staff who were tested, and there would have been multiple tests on the same people.

Indeed, the whole point of the testing is to check the same staff week-in week-out for Covid.

The data also showed a cumulative total of 15,049 conducted tests on the estimated 35,000 care home residents, of which 2,133 were last week.

Again, there was wide variation across the country.

Among the 12 boards with a care home Covid death, NHS Lanarkshire had the lowest ratio of resident tests per death at 4.2, Glasgow was 9.6, and Borders was the highest at 21.4.

At @NicolaSturgeon says testing figures being published today will show 11,000 care home staff have been tested for

Conservative leader @Jackson_Carlaw says it’s past time to fully deliver for 50,000 staff and urges minister to “get a grip”

At First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon was urged by Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw to put a firm deadline on routine testing for care home staff.

Ms Sturgeon said she would consider it, but did not commit to doing so.

Ms Freeman wrote last week to health board chief executives ordering them to up produce detailed plans for testing in their area, and warning she would publish their progress.

The First Minister also revealed that the Scottish contact tracing system, known as Test and Protect, had dealt with 681 positive cases, 481 of which had been completed involving 741 contacts of those infected.

READ MORE: Only fifth of care home staff tested despite SNP pledge

Mr Carlaw said: “Three weeks have now passed since the SNP said it would routinely test every care home worker.

“But now we learn barely a fifth of these staff members have been tested, meaning tens of thousands are still going into work with vulnerable people with no idea whether or not they’re carrying the disease.

“The fact so few have been tested three weeks after this pledge is pathetic.

“We need to see Nicola Sturgeon set a deadline for when all care staff will be tested in Scotland.

“These dedicated workers need to know the Scottish Government has a grip on this perilous situation.”