Care homes ‘working blind’ after potentially unsafe coronavirus test kits pulled

A story I wrote for The Mirror, about the impact of the withdrawal of Covid testing kits on care homes in the UK, based on accounts from the managers of a home in Nottingham who said they had been left “stranded”.

EXCLUSIVE Staff were forced to put a vulnerable, elderly patient with dementia into isolation after the withdrawal of potentially unsafe testing kits

A care home was forced to place a vulnerable elderly patient with dementia into isolation after the withdrawal of potentially unsafe coronavirus testing kits.

Staff at a home in Nottinghamshire had choice but to place the newly-arrived patient into “barriered nursing”, meaning complete isolation, for 14 days, after being ordered to halt using a testing system earlier this week.

A director of the home in Nottinghamshire described to the Mirror the stress the decision has caused for the patient and staff members, who now have no way of knowing if residents are carrying the virus.

Mary McGowan, director of Nottingham Care Village, in Lambley, Nottinghamshire, said that staff have been left “working blind” since the decision, with no indication from Public Health England about when replacement kits will be available.

“We feel we’ve been let down. We now have an elderly lady in the home with dementia restricted to her room.

“She doesn’t understand why these restrictions are in place or why she’s being refined to her room. It’s very stressful for her.

“It’s caused considerable upset to the family and to our staff.”

(Image: Tom Maddick SWNS)

She added: “We’re stranded. We have a responsibility as a provider to keep patients safe and be transparent with families.

“I feel as if we’ve gone back to April, we’re all at sea, we don’t know what to say to patients’ families.”

The testing kits, supplied by Randox Laboratories, a Conservative Party donor, were withdrawn on Thursday after an inspection revealed concerns over the sterility of the swabs used in them.

The manager of Nottingham Care Village, which is owned by private provider Purico, says she has been left without any clear answers about when alternative tests can be provided.

Mary and a number of staff members and families of residents in Nottingham Care Village met with Labour leader Keir Starmer away from the home on Thursday morning, just before the order to cease using the kits came through from Public Health England.

Keir Starmer visiting care home workers in Nottingham (Image: Getty Images)

Mr Starmer said: “I met with Mary this week in Nottinghamshire. 

“She and her colleagues told me of their frustration and disappointment about the continued lack of tests for care workers and elderly residents. 

“This recall of inadequate test kits will be yet another major blow to their team.

“They are trying their best to provide the best possible care for their vulnerable residents, and the government continues to let them down.”

Fionnuala Sheeran, manager of Nottingham Care Village said:  “Care homes were thrown under the bus initially. We’re saying don’t throw us under the bus with this testing.

“Please support us and help us keep people safe. That’s the staff and residents and families of people who need to feel they’re coming into a safe environment. It would give us a fighting chance.

“They put a whole generation at risk by doing it this way, to people who were vulnerable anyway. They were people in the community who were shielding and self-isolating anyway. It’s worrying because we only have so much time now to be really prepared and going forward to winter flu season.”

Announcing the withdrawal on Thursday, Mr Hancock said:

“We’ve identified some test swabs that are not up to the usual high standard that we expect and we’ll be carrying out further testing of this batch.

“As a precautionary measure, and while we investigate further, we’re requesting the use of these Randox swab test kits are paused in all settings until further notice.

“This problem was brought to my attention yesterday afternoon, we contacted settings using these swabs last night and published the pause notice immediately.

“Clinical advice is that there’s no evidence of any harm, the test results are not affected, there is no evidence of any issues with our other test swabs and there is no impact on access to testing.”

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