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Tower Hamlets Care Homes residents and staff supported through COVID-19 with bespoke testing service

Posted on: 14 July 2020

Residents and staff working in Tower Hamlets Care Homes have been the focus of a ground-breaking new 'COVID-19 home testing service' delivered by the GP Care Group aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus within the five older people's care homes in Tower Hamlets. 

Back in May, during the peak of the pandemic, Tower Hamlets Council approached the GP Care Group to carry out the programme of testing for COVID-19 among the staff and residents of the five CQC registered care homes in Tower Hamlets. The aim of the service was simple, to reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission between and among this vulnerable cohort and aid early support for those who had the virus.

The GP Care Group's Ruth Walters, Director of Quality & Assurance, describes how the process worked: "We put together a team of nurses from the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC), also hosted by the Care Group. Every two weeks, the nurses visit the care homes and take swabs from the residents and staff. The swabs are brought back to the lab at the Royal London Hospital and analysed and processed."

The results of the tests are passed back to the nurses at the UTC service who share the results back to the staff at the care homes.  

This hands-on approach to taking the swabs by the nurses, rather than relying on a self-testing approach, favoured by other areas, has proven benefits, including a more reliable result as well as a faster testing process.   

The care homes testing service has been a true example of "Tower Hamlets Together", with the Royal London Hospital Lab, Tower Hamlets Council, the GP Care Group and CCG working together to improve the health experience of Tower Hamlets residents and patients.

Ruth continued: "We have had really good feedback from the care homes who told us the service was extremely valuable and has provided reassurance to residents and their families. Our team have also been instrumental in engaging care homes staff to take the test, so there has been an increased take up amongst this cohort too."

Chris Lovitt, Tower Hamlets Associate Director of Public Health, said: "Working together with the GP Care Group enabled us to rapidly introduce local COVID-19 testing for both staff and residents in our local care homes four weeks ahead of the national programme. Diagnosing COVID quickly is vital in preventing further spread of the virus, so this ambitious testing programme has helped us to protect some of our most vulnerable residents. It has also enabled us to make sure care homes are supported to manage infections according to best practice."