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Coronavirus: Tower Hamlets GP nurses touring East End care homes testing for Covid-19 every two weeks

PUBLISHED: 12:33 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:05 14 July 2020

Covid-19 levels in Tower Hamlets are among highest in the country. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Covid-19 levels in Tower Hamlets are among highest in the country. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Niall Carson/PA

A rapid testing programme for Covid-19 is being carried out in five East End care homes for the elderly by Tower Hamlets GPs using labs at the Royal London Hospital.

Routine testing at the Royal London's Blizard centre laboratories. Picture: Mike BrookeRoutine testing at the Royal London's Blizard centre laboratories. Picture: Mike Brooke

Nurses are out visiting the care homes taking swabs from staff and residents which is proving to be four weeks faster than the government’s national programme, it has emerged.

The elderly residents and staff have been targeted for a ground-breaking “home testing” service aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus in the five older people’s care homes in the Tower Hamlets GP Care Group area, the East London Advertiser has learned.

The GP Care Group’s Ruth Walters described how the process is working.

“We put together a team of nurses who visit the care homes every two weeks,” she said.

Elderly resident in East End care home is swab-tested for Coronavirus as routine precaution. Picture: Tower Hamlets GP groupElderly resident in East End care home is swab-tested for Coronavirus as routine precaution. Picture: Tower Hamlets GP group

“The nurses take swabs from residents and staff which are brought back to the lab at the Royal London and analysed and processed.”

The results of the tests are passed back to the nurses who share the results with the care home staffs.

The proactive “hands-on approach” where the swabs are taken by the nurses, rather than relying on a self-testing approach favoured in other areas, has proved more reliable as well as a faster testing process, the GPs point out.

“The service has provided reassurance to residents and their families,” Ruth added.

Lab testing facilities at the Royal London. Picture: Mike BrookeLab testing facilities at the Royal London. Picture: Mike Brooke

The local authority approached the GP group back in May, during the peak of the pandemic, to carry out testing for the virus among staff and residents of the five East End care homes that are registered with the Care Quality Commission.

The plan was to reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission between and among this vulnerable group and to help those who had the virus.

The council’s public health associate director Chris Lovitt said: “Working with the GPs enabled us to introduce local Covid-19 testing rapidly for care home staff and residents four weeks ahead of the national programme.

“Diagnosing Covid-19 quickly is vital in preventing further spread, so this testing programme has helped protect some of our most vulnerable residents.”

The rapid testing also means the authority can make sure the care homes are able to manage infections according to “best practice”.


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