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Department of Health & Social Care

If you have any further questions please look at the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) guidance documents which can be found here.

If you have further questions please call 119 or join one of the DHSC’s weekly homecare testing webinars.

When calling 119 for testing support

If you have any questions about testing, please call the NHS coronavirus testing service on 119.

When calling you should select from the following options to be directed straight to the specialist organisation testing team:

1.    Select whether you’re calling from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

2.    Select your language requirement for the call

3.    Select whether to hear what data is captured, or continue

4.    You will then hear the following options:

“If you are calling because you have an upcoming hospital procedure, or from an organisation who receives test kits directly from the national testing programme, press 1, or press 2 to continue”

Press ‘1’ for calling from an organisation who receives test kits. That will get you straight through to the right team

If you have any questions related to testing, registering kits, delayed results, or issues with couriers, then please call the Coronavirus Testing Contact Centre on 119 (England). Lines are open from 7am –11pm daily.

FAQ’s

Conducting testing

Instructions for how to conduct testing are provided with each test kit

Who should be included in staff testing? Can I test people who use our service?

Regular weekly testing should be given to all homecare staff, including any agency or bank staff that regularly work for your agency. Support staff such as managers and administrative staff may also be included in regular weekly testing if they regularly come into contact with homecare staff.

People who use the service and staff member’s households are not to be included.

Must we test Thursday to Sunday only? Why is this?

You should only conduct testing between the days Thursday to Sunday.

Because there are 700k homecare workers, it’s essential that you only test on days that our labs are quieter, so that we do not oversupply them on busier days of the week.

Because our labs are quieter Thursday to Sunday this means that your results will be up to 30% quicker than average on these days.

The only exception to this is if a homecare worker is symptomatic, where they should test immediately either by visiting a local test site or by using one of their home test kits.

You can apply for an urgent symptomatic test at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

If Homecare workers are eligible to receive regular weekly testing through another route, should they test again?

Some home care workers may already receive weekly testing as part of their role, through other routes such as their local authority, or through extra care or supported living testing.

If carers are already being tested weekly, they may continue to test in this way.

Please remember that staff movement between settings should be restricted to minimise risk. Some extra care and supported living settings are eligible for only one round of whole home testing, which will soon be expanding to weekly staff testing (announcement coming later today).

Are workers allowed to continue working whilst awaiting the result of their test?

Nothing should change while your team await their test results.

If a homecare worker is asymptomatic (not displaying any coronavirus symptoms) then they should continue to work while they await their test results.

If they are symptomatic then they should continue to isolate while they await their results.

If at any time a homecare worker becomes symptomatic, they should self-isolate and take another test immediately.

Anyone can access a symptomatic test from https://www.gov.uk/getting-tested-for-coronavirus

Should we carry out testing on staff when they are not displaying coronavirus symptoms? Should we be testing asymptomatic workers?

National policy from the Department for Health and Social Care is that all homecare workers should conduct asymptomatic testing on a weekly basis. Which means testing all staff every week even if they are not displaying any symptoms.

Regular asymptomatic testing of care staff is an essential part of the government’s response to coronavirus, as it allows us to identify and isolate cases early and stop the spread of the virus. This is especially important for care staff working with vulnerable individuals.

When should staff not test?

The only instance that a homecare worker should not conduct weekly testing is if they have tested positive for coronavirus in the last 90 days, unless they become symptomatic again.

After receiving a positive result you should not test again for 90 days after your test was conducted (if asymptomatic at the time of test) or from the initial onset of symptoms (if symptomatic at the time of test).

This is because an inactive virus can still be detected through testing for up to 90 days following infection.

Home care workers should return to work after their required isolation period, for more information about this please visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/how-long-to-self-isolate/

Can staff members come into the office to test?

We recommend that homecare workers self-test at home to avoid unnecessary contact. However, you may invite them into the office for testing if they require assistance.

If you do plan to conduct testing in your offices then please follow infection control procedures and wear full PPE when swabbing others (gloves, visor, face mask and apron).

Guidance is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/912952/Care_home_testing_instructions_-_non-Randox_v2.pdf

How is weekly retesting different from antibody testing?

Antibody tests are used to detect antibodies to the COVID-19 virus to see if someone has previously had the virus. Our understanding of the body’s immune response to the virus is limited, and we do not currently know how long an antibody response lasts, whether a person can be re-infected, nor whether having antibodies means a person cannot transmit the virus to others.

An antibody test result can only tell an individual whether or not they have had the virus in the past and developed antibodies.

Therefore, regardless of the result of an antibody test, individuals must continue to comply with government guidelines, including wearing PPE, conducting regular weekly testing and following all other infection prevention and control measures.

To find out more information about antibody testing:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-antibody-tests/coronavirus-covid-19-antibody-tests#why-antibody-tests-are-useful

Ordering test kits

All Homecare agencies in England should order test kits for each 28 day testing cycle

Will I automatically receive more kits every 28 days?

Orders need to be made every month as numbers and requirements in your organisation may change. You will receive an email reminding you to order more test kits 21 days after your last order was dispatched.

I receive an error message when I try to order test kits

When ordering test kits please enter zero for the number of non-staff that require testing, as homecare testing is for staff only.

Then enter the total number of staff that require testing for your agency. The system will automatically provide you with 4 test kits for each member of staff given.

If the system still shows as an error, please call 119 and follow the instructions at the start of this document. This may be because you are a large homecare agency and we need to increase the number of test kits that you are able to order.

How do I find my Unique Organisation Number (UON) when ordering test kits?

The UON for every registered homecare agency was sent by email on 23rd November.

You can find your UON using your CQC location ID and postcode at:
https://organisation-number-lookup.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/

If you are unable to use the lookup tool above please call 119 using the instructions given at the start of this document.

We have only just registered with the CQC, how do we order test kits?

We work closely with the CQC to continuously add new organisations; each newly registered homecare agency will be added within 14 days of registering with the CQC.

To find your UON please follow the instructions above.

Delivery of test kits

All test kits will be delivered by Royal Mail to the address that the homecare agency has registered with the CQC

Where will the test kits be sent? Can I send them to a different address?

All test kits can only be sent to the address that each homecare agency has registered with the CQC. Each CQC registered location will be able to order test kits.

If the address that is registered with the CQC is incorrect then please contact them to amend this.

If the registered address is temporarily closed due to coronavirus then you may set up a temporary redirection with the Royal Mail, to find out how please visit https://www.royalmail.com/personal/receiving-mail/redirection

If you are a national agency with regional offices that are not individually registered, please contact 119 or join a webinar and provide us with your information. A member of the team will contact you to see if your regional offices are eligible to be added as delivery points.

Will test kits be delivered on Saturdays and Sundays?

No, due to the nature of homecare agency working patterns we don’t delivery on weekends, in case there is not a member of staff in the office to take the delivery.

Will I be informed of the delivery date for my test kits?

Yes, you will receive an email at least two days before your delivery, confirming your delivery date. This will be sent to the email address given when you ordered the tests.

What happens if I miss my delivery? I am not in the office on the day of my delivery, what should I do?

If Royal Mail fails to deliver your order they will try again the next day, if they fail twice they will deliver a failed delivery slip with instructions on how to collect your order.

Is there a use-by date for the kits provided and how should they be stored?

Kits should be stored at room temperature; the expiry date is clearly marked on the swab packaging. All swabs supplied will have at least 6 months’ shelf life.

Registering and returning test kits

All test kits must be registered online and returned by priority post box. This must happen on the same day as testing, and tests must be posted at least an hour before the last collection for the post box.

To find your nearest priority post box visit www.royalmail.com/services-near-you

In the instructions “How to test for Coronavirus” contained within the test kit, there are different instructions for returning completed kits. Which route should we use?

Please DO NOT follow the green “Testing at Home” arrangements as the online registration process is different and the test will not be linked to the care provider/ agency.

The testing kit supplied is a standard one suitable for both members of the public (green label) and adult social care workers (blue label).

Homecare workers must follow the instructions entitled “If you’re testing on-site for an organisation”, coloured in blue. These instructions match those provided in the webinar slides and allow you to register the kit using your UON.

Always return completed tests via the royal mail priority post boxes as per instructions.

Will I receive the results for my workers?

Results will only be sent to the individual who took and registered the test. This is due to data protection and privacy laws around the sharing of medical records without consent.

Homecare workers who test positive must isolate following government guidance.

Tests may be registered to an agency e-mail address only if written consent is given by workers confirming they are happy to share this medical information with their employer.

Can I book a courier to send test kits to the laboratory from my home?

No, test kits can only be returned Thursday to Sunday via a priority post box.

Receiving results

For detailed and up to date information about what to do with your coronavirus test results please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/what-your-test-result-means

Who needs to isolate if a homecare worker tests positive?

If a homecare worker tests positive, the members of their household/ bubble will need to self-isolate immediately.

Workers will also be contacted by a member of the NHS contact tracing team who will be able to provide advice on which of their contacts need to isolate.

If care has been provided with medical-grade PPE then people who use the service may not need to isolate, but please discuss this with the NHS tracing team who will be able to advise on each specific case in line with guidance that can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance

Full guidance for homecare worker testing is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-for-homecare-workers

If you have further questions please join our weekly webinars, or call 119 or join one of our weekly homecare testing webinars.