THERE are fears a lack of promised testing for residents and staff is fuelling the spread of coronavirus in Oxford's care homes.

Teresa Lipson’s 94-year-old mother is in a Sanctuary Care home in the south of the city and tested positive this week for Covid-19.

She said: "The only way she could have caught the virus is from asymptomatic staff carriers.

"The home has done what it could but is severely hampered by Government inaction."

Ms Lipson added, as of Wednesday, staff without coronavirus symptoms at the home had still not received tests – despite a pledge by the Government last week to extend provision to all residents and care staff.

A spokesperson for Sanctuary Care said: “We understand how worrying these unprecedented times are and can reassure the families of all our residents that the safety of their loved ones is our absolute priority.

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"We are part of the Government’s employer portal which prioritises testing for care workers and prior to testing kits arriving at our homes, we are encouraging our staff to immediately self-refer for testing – and not go to their workplace – if they present with any symptoms."

They added: “We remain in regular contact with the Department of Health and Social Care and other care providers to share information and best practice, and our staff continue to closely follow the detailed public health guidance being given to care homes right across the country.”

In mid-April the Government said all frontline care workers in need of a test should have one.

On April 28, the Government later announced that coronavirus tests would be extended to residents and staff in care homes, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

But Michelle Williams, director of care at Fairfield care home in North Oxford, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme this week: "I felt the message was it would be happening the next day.

Oxford Mail:

Fairfield care home. Picture: Google Maps

"On the four occasions I've talked to the various authorities I have made requests for asymptomatic residents, and in no uncertain terms I've been told that's not happening, that is not at the moment part of our service."

The Government has said it is delivering up to 30,000 tests a day to residents and staff in elderly care homes and is prioritising the rapid roll-out of home test kits.

However, a survey released this week found just one in five social care workers had been able to access testing for Covid-19.

The survey of 31,262 National Care Forum (NCF) members found that just 6,469 were identified as a priority for testing due to having symptoms and of these only 1,436 (22 per cent) were actually tested.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the NCF, said: “The Government’s promise to provide tests for all staff is exposed as pure words.

"Social care needs to be systematically prioritised in each and every testing system, in order for government to live up to its commitment."

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A care home worker from Oxford, who did not want to be named, is one of those who has been tested and was confirmed as positive for coronavirus last week after developing mild symptoms.

The 52-year-old said she was told last week there were tests available for 10 of her care home's approximately 40 residents.

She added, however, that testing was only one part of the challenge facing care homes, explaining: "One of the problems is that a negative test is only at that point in time, it could be positive the next day so it will still be really hard to manage even if the tests were available."

She said Personal Protective Equipment, both supply and its correct use, was another major issue.

The latest Office for National Statistics data shows that in Oxford, 52 deaths involving Covid-19 were provisionally registered up to May 2 – up from 39 the week before.

This only includes deaths that occurred up to April 24 which were registered up to eight days later.

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Of those, 19 occurred in care homes and nine at private homes. In the previous week, 13 Covid-19 deaths had been recorded in care homes.

These figures are based on where Covid-19 is mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.

James Brokenshire on Wednesday said the Government was continuing to work with the care sector after concerns over testing were put to him.

The Security Minister told the BBC: “We are still very firmly discussing with the sector, with Public Health England (PHE) and reaching out to ensure that capacity is reaching where it needs to be. That work still continues.

“We are obviously concerned about issues in care homes, ensuring there is that reach, it is there in terms of the capacity, having gone up, and how we ensure we can get that further, where it is needed, given the whole point of investing in that was to ensure that it can give that sense of reassurance.”