Hospices are 'falling through the cracks' of coronavirus testing

Hospices are ‘falling through the cracks’ of coronavirus testing as staff are being denied regular screening offered to other health workers, charity says

  • Staff working in hospitals and care homes are offered weekly coronavirus tests 
  • But staff who are working in hospices have been excluded from this pledge 
  • This means asymptomatic staff could spread coronavirus through hospices 

Hospices are still being denied regular coronavirus testing, meaning thousands of patients face dying alone without their families.

Staff in hospitals and care homes are offered weekly tests regardless of whether they have symptoms – but those working in hospices have been excluded from this pledge.

It means asymptomatic staff could spread Covid-19 through hospices, which care for 225,000 terminally ill people in the UK each year.

Staff in hospitals and care homes are offered weekly tests regardless of whether they have symptoms – but those working in hospices have been excluded from this pledge [File photo]

Marie Curie, the country’s leading end of life charity, said a lack of testing risks ‘paralysing’ the sector.

It is also calling for the families of patients in hospices to be tested every week so that they can visit their loved ones and provide support.

Visitors were banned from hospices during the first wave of the virus and families have spoken of the heartbreak of leaving their relatives to die alone or being able to see them only by waving through a window.

Marie Curie has written to NHS England warning that hospices are yet again ‘falling through the cracks’ when it comes to testing.

Dr Sarah Holmes from the charity said: ‘Every day that passes without a regular weekly testing regime in place for hospice staff puts the most vulnerable in society at risk. The lack of testing could also end up paralysing not only Marie Curie hospices but other independent providers too.’

The charity also fears that people are not seeking help from hospices due to concerns over Covid-19 and visiting restrictions. 

Dr Holmes said: ‘We do not want people who need our help to decide not to come to one of our hospices.’

She added: ‘We only have one chance to get this right for people at the end of life and their loved ones.

It means asymptomatic staff could spread Covid-19 through hospices, which care for 225,000 terminally ill people in the UK each year [File photo]

‘No one wants a repeat of what happened during the first wave. Regular testing is central to avoiding the mistakes of the past as we focus on the coming weeks and months ahead.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We are grateful for the work hospices have undertaken during this challenging period and we have made up to £200million available to support them this year.

‘Anyone working in healthcare with symptoms can access testing as a priority but we must target testing capacity at areas that need it most.’

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