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Testing for SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Care Home Residents and Staff in English Care Homes: A Service Evaluation

Publication date: 

13 Jul 2022


Journal of Long-Term Care, Year: 2022 Page/Article: 154–162


Brainard J, Aldus C, Smith E, Dunham S, Hunter P, Steel N and Everden P

Publication type: 



Abstract Context: COVID-19 is especially dangerous to older adults living in residential care. Objective: To evaluate the usefulness of a nurse-led Enhanced Care Home Team (ECHT) SARS-CoV-2 testing strategy to identify resident cases early, identify typical illness presentation residents, and correctly attribute cause of death in care home settings in Norfolk, UK. Method: Residents and staff received nose and throat swab tests (7 April to 29 June 2020). Resident test results were linked with symptoms on days 0–14 after test and mortality to 13 July 2020. The data collected were used to evaluate service performance. Findings: Residents (n = 521) and staff (estimated n = 340) in 44 care homes were tested in the ECHT service. SARS-CoV-2 positivity was identified in 103 residents in 14 homes and 49 staff in 7 homes. Of 103 SARS-CoV-2+ residents, just 37 had what were understood to be typical COVID-19 symptom(s). Among 51 residents without symptoms when initially tested, 13 (25%) developed symptoms within 14 days. Many SARS-CoV-2+ residents lacked typical symptoms but presented rather as ‘generally unwell’ (n = 16). Of 39 resident deaths during the monitoring period, 20 (51%) were initially attributed to SARS-CoV-2, all of whom tested SARS-CoV-2+. One deceased person not initially attributed to SARS-CoV-2 tested positive through a different monitoring programme. Of all staff tests, 9% were positive. Implications: A locally designed and integrated joint nursing and social care team approach successfully identified asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic SARS-CoV-2+ residents and staff. Being ‘generally unwell’ was common amongst symptomatic residents and indicated SARS-CoV-2 infection in older people in the absence of more ‘typical’ symptoms. The service supported correct attribution of cause of death.