Brown leads demands to ramp up testing in care homes

Former PM is urging Scottish and UK governments to convene virtual summit on test, trace and isolate strategy.

Brown leads demands to ramp up testing in care homes SNS

Former prime minister Gordon Brown is leading demands for coronavirus testing to be stepped up in care homes.

He said he was “shocked” by a survey by a group of care homes with a total of 700 residents and 100 staff that found just 56% of those staying there and 43% of workers had been tested for Covid-19.

Mr Brown is now calling for the Scottish and UK Governments to convene an urgent virtual summit to agree a joint test, trace and isolate strategy to combat the spread of the disease.

The plea is being backed by trade unions including the GMB, Unison, Unite and Usdaw, as well as the Royal College of Nursing and a number of care home employers.

In a letter to the Scottish Government, they claim “insufficient co-operation” between ministers in Edinburgh and London is harming efforts to tackle Covid-19.

“If Scotland is to be able to move out of lockdown safely, we need to test many, many more people,” the letter, which has also been sent to the UK Government, states.

“We need both Governments in Scotland – Scottish and UK – to work together to increase testing capacity hugely and give first priority to testing key workers – who are most at risk and most at risk of spreading the virus – routinely.”

They made the plea as the think tank Our Scottish Future published a new report calling for a “radical acceleration of coronavirus testing”.

Those who signed the letter have demanded routine coronavirus testing for care workers, NHS workers and all frontline workers who are unable to practice social distancing at work.

Mr Brown said: “If there was a vaccine we would tell everyone to ‘get vaccinated’.

“Given that in the absence of a vaccine, testing, tracing and isolating is our policy, we should be able to say ‘get tested’.

“Three months into the disease, only 2.5% of Scots have been tested and even today we are testing at a rate 30% lower than the rest of the UK, even when Scottish ministers are having to admit that rates of infection have been higher than the rest of the UK.”

Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister

“But three months into the disease, only 2.5% of Scots have been tested and even today we are testing at a rate 30% lower than the rest of the UK, even when Scottish ministers are having to admit that rates of infection have been higher than the rest of the UK.”

On Monday, Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced testing is to be made available to all care staff, regardless of whether a case has been reported at the home in which they work or if they have symptoms.

But Mr Brown said that is “still not good enough”.

He added: “At around 5000 tests a day, we are running at less than half what even the Scottish Government has stated are needed.”

Professor Jim Gallagher, of Our Scottish Future, said: “Scotland will only get ahead of Covid-19 if the Scottish and UK Governments work hand-in-hand, sharing expertise, information and resources.

“They should be applauded for where they have done so during this crisis. Now we need to see a great deal more.”

He argued: “Something’s wrong in the way the testing system has been set up.

“It must be better co-ordinated and deliver many more tests.

“That’s why unions and care home workers are now calling on both Governments to get together to agree and publish how they intend to work together to deliver a workable test, trace and isolate plan – we now need both to step up to the plate.”

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