Routine Covid testing of hospital discharges to care homes to end in April

The routine Covid testing of hospital patients discharged to care homes is to end on 1 April.

Maria Caulfield, minister for mental health and women’s health strategy, announced the move yesterday as the next stage in the government’s plan to live with Covid-19.

Confirming the announcement, Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA, said: “Thanks to protection from the combination of vaccination, natural immunity and effective treatments, Covid-19 is now a relatively mild disease for most people.  

“This allows testing programmes to be brought in line with the management of other respiratory illnesses such as flu, while still protecting those most at risk.

“While this is an important milestone for us in learning to live with Covid-19 as with other respiratory illnesses, the virus hasn’t gone away and can still cause severe illness for some.

“UKHSA will continue to work closely with the Department for Health and Social Care and with NHS England to closely monitor respiratory illness rates and characteristics through our critical science and surveillance programmes.”

Around 25,000 people were discharged from hospitals to care homes without testing at the height of the Covid pandemic between mid-March and mid-April 2020.

Almost 20,000 people died with Covid symptoms in care homes in England and Wales in the first wave of the pandemic from 14 March to 11 September 2020.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “People who live in care homes are often living with many health conditions and are susceptible to infectious diseases. It is for this reason that we would like to see testing continue when patients are being discharged from hospital. If we see an end to such testing, the risk of people coming from hospital with asymptomatic Covid and transmitting it to other residents could have serious consequences.”

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