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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-for-homecare-workers/a-testing-service-for-homecare-workers-in-england
NHS Test and Trace is making weekly COVID-19 testing available to all homecare workers in England.
All registered homecare agencies will be contacted with details of how to apply for test kits for their homecare workers. Homecare agencies will be responsible for ordering and distributing test kits to all homecare workers for them to conduct at home on a weekly basis.
Homecare worker testing should only be conducted on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (if the homecare worker is able to access a priority post box with Sunday collections).
For more information you can join our webinars, which will be hosted every week.
These live webinars will talk you through the end-to-end process for homecare worker testing and include a live Q&A with the homecare testing team, who will be happy to answer your questions.
1. Summary: testing for homecare workers
About the service
The service involves:
weekly testing of all homecare workers in adult social care. This includes all carers in domiciliary care organisations, homecare medicine providers and aseptic compounders
agency managers should order tests every 28 days for their homecare workers
4 tests are delivered for each homecare worker to the agency, for a 28-day testing cycle
each homecare worker should be given 4 test kits every 28 days
every 7 days a care worker should take a test, register it online, and return it by post between Thursday and Sunday
homecare workers will receive their results in 2 to 4 days by email and text message (SMS)
Why testing is important
- identifies homecare workers who currently have COVID-19 so they are able to self-isolate if positive
- protects those receiving care from infection passed to them by homecare workers who are confirmed positive
- prevents and controls the spread of the virus by identifying asymptomatic cases
We need to carry on testing and self-isolating if needed, regardless of the rollout of the vaccine programme. For the latest advice on how long to self-isolate and in what circumstances, read the Self Isolation and treating symptoms guidance from the NHS.
1.1 Process overview
- Agency managers register online and order kits for the homecare workers in their team to cover weekly testing for 4 weeks.
- Agency managers distribute kits or arrange for them to be collected.
- Homecare workers test themselves and return their completed kits and receive their test results shortly afterwards. This service is for homecare staff only, not the service users themselves.
1.2 Eligible organisations
Your organisation is eligible if you are a Care Quality Commission (CQC)-regulated homecare organisation in England providing personal care.
If you believe you match this criterion and have not been contacted by NHS Test and Trace with information on ordering test kits, please call 119.
1.3 Your involvement
If you are the manager of a homecare agency, responsible for a team of homecare workers or you have been delegated responsibility for testing by your organisation, your key responsibilities are to:
- attend a webinar to understand the process
- order test kits for homecare workers for every 28-day testing cycle
- communicate your agency’s Unique Organisation Number (UON) to homecare workers
- distribute test kits to homecare workers
- encourage and support your homecare workers to complete weekly testing between Thursdays and Sundays
If you are a homecare worker who visits people with care and support needs at their homes, your key responsibilities are to:
- conduct tests weekly between Thursdays and Sundays
- register your tests as soon as you have completed them each week using your agency’s Unique Organisation Number (UON)
- return your test kits at a Royal Mail priority post box on the same day that you complete the test
- if you test positive: isolate, notify your line manager and provide contacts to NHS Track and Trace
- regardless of your result, continue following all infection prevention and control (IPC) measures such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), washing your hands and socially distancing where possible
1.4 Summary of testing for homecare workers
The overall process for homecare worker testing is:
- Agency manager identifies the number of eligible homecare workers
- Agency manager receives UON and orders test kits
- Agency manager shares UON with the homecare workers
- Agency manager takes delivery of the kits and arranges for homecare workers to receive them
- Homecare worker receives 4 kits from the agency manger
- Homecare worker takes their own swabs using test kit
- Homecare worker registers test kit online, providing the UON from their agency manager
- Homecare worker returns test kit on the same day of testing via their nearest priority post box
- Homecare worker receives results via email and text message (SMS)
- Repeats process every week
If you have any queries with any of the steps please call the national coronavirus contact centre on 119
1.5 Unique Organisation Number
NHS Test and Trace assigns all participating organisations a single Unique Organisation Number (UON).
Agency managers will receive their UON via the email address registered with CQC. Please make sure that the person who receives these emails understands the importance of this message and knows who to contact.
A UON is an 8-digit number which is exclusive to an individual organisation. This can be used to login to all online elements of the testing process.
Agency managers will need to use their UON for:
- ordering test kits
- contacting the national coronavirus contact centre for support (dial 119, or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland)
Homecare workers will need to use their UON for registering completed test kits to make sure they will receive their results.
If you have any issues with this process, please call 119.
1.6 Update on registration portal
Please make sure that your UON is correct when you log into the portal. There has now been a validation added to the UON entry to confirm against our system whether or not what you have entered is valid. This will lead to fewer registration errors with test kits more likely to be registered against the right organisation number. If the UON entered is not valid, you will be prompted by a new error message screen. If you are having issues remembering your UON you can use our online UON look-up page or call 119 if further support is required.
When you log into the registration portal, the ‘organisation type’ screen will now be removed. Instead, your organisation type will be linked based on your UON. This will make the registration process quicker for you.
2. End-to-end process: agency managers
2.1 Ordering test kits
The agency manager is responsible for ordering test kits for the homecare workers in the team.
Each agency manager must register for test kits.
In order to apply, you will need:
- your Unique Organisation Number (UON)
- total number of homecare workers for testing
When ordering you will be asked to enter the number of residents or non-staff. You should enter zero for this.
Once you have placed an order, you will receive a confirmatory email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The agency manager will receive an email from email@example.com when their test kits have been dispatched, informing them of their delivery date.
Test kits will be delivered in boxes of 40 to the address of your homecare agency, as registered with CQC.
The agency manager is responsible for taking delivery of the test kits.
The agency manager must then order kits every 28 days for their homecare workers.
If you have any issues ordering test kits, please call 119.
2.2 Communicating to your homecare workers
The agency manager is responsible for communicating key information that homecare workers will need to successfully conduct testing.
We encourage agency managers to use existing communication channels that are best suited to your team.
The activities which need to take place are in the following table.
Communication responsibilities for agency managers
|Communication||When to do this||Recommended channel||Alternative or supplementary channels|
|Share your location’s UON with homecare workers in the team||Before test kits are delivered, care workers will need the UON to register their kits||Send an email to all care workers including confirmation of the UON. Suggested wording will be provided||1. Group text message/WhatsApp
2. Display the UON where team members can see it (for example, team noticeboard)
3. Add information to workers’ wage slips
|Make the team aware of the process||Before the test kits are delivered||Email relevant links to the team. Suggested wording will be provided||1. Announce in team meetings
2. Watch the agency webinar as a team
|Share all relevant support materials||Before testing begins||Email relevant links to the team. Suggested wording will be provided||Provide printed copies of materials to the workforce who need them|
|Inform the team that the kits have arrived, and distribute them or arrange collections||As soon as the kits are delivered||Most appropriate channel for your team, for example, Microsoft Teams channel||1. Share a drafted email
2. Group text message/WhatsApp
2.3 Distributing test kits
Once the kits are delivered to the registered address, it is the agency manager’s responsibility to distribute them to homecare workers.
The agency manager should inform their team that the kits have arrived. They can either distribute the kits, or advise carers to collect 4 test kits each as soon as possible.
You will know how best to handle the distribution process for your team but below are some suggestions that have been put forward by homecare agencies as part of our initial research.
- Homecare workers can pick up kits at the same time they pick up other materials (for example, PPE, consumables and other medical supplies)
- Agency managers or supervisors can hand out the kits to the group at daily/weekly meetings
Ensure each care worker collects 4 kits every month so that weekly testing can continue without interruption
Each test kit should include a pink individual Royal Mail return label. Please check that there is one in each bag provided.
2.4 Encouraging participation
In order to protect your homecare workers and for the people they support, it is important that homecare workers are encouraged to complete the end-to-end weekly process of:
- completing the test between Thursday and Sunday each week
- registering the test online
- returning the test through a priority post box
Below are some ideas that we have seen work well to encourage participation for homecare workers:
- digital tracker (for example, Microsoft Teams) so homecare workers can confirm they have tested each week
- a physical tracker (for example, a matrix on a team notice board with stickers for completed tests)
- text or WhatsApp group message reminders to test
- sending outlook invite placeholders to remind team members to test
2.5 Support available to you
The Infection Control Fund (ICF), set up in May, has been extended until March 2021, with an extra £546 million for the care sector to take key steps to improve infection prevention and control, enabling providers to restrict staff movement in care homes and pay normal wages to staff who are self-isolating.
Providers may use funding from the extended ICF for reasonable administrative costs associated with organising and recording the outcomes of COVID-19 tests and where these are not being supported by other government funding streams. The decision to allow claims against the fund for these purposes would remain a choice for local authorities and no additional funding is being provided for these purposes.
3. End-to-end process: homecare workers
3.1 Collecting test kits
The agency manager will inform homecare workers when test kits arrive and how they can be collected or distributed.
Each homecare worker should take 4 test kits, one for each of the 4 weekly testing cycles.
Please ensure you have postage labels for each test.
3.2 Prepare for testing by looking at guidance
Before testing be sure to:
- read guidance for homecare workers
- read guidance included with your test kit
- watch the instructional video for self-swabbing
If a homecare worker becomes symptomatic and has a kit available at home, they should test themselves in addition to the normal weekly cycle.
3.3 Using the test kits
Homecare workers will conduct a combined throat and nose self-swab for the test
You should only conduct your test between Thursdays and Sundays.
Always leave 7 days between tests where possible.
If possible, please continue testing while on holiday (in the UK) or off work due to an illness not related to coronavirus.
3.4 Registering test kits
Each week you should register your test after you have completed your test.
Steps to register a test kit
Enter the UON of your homecare agency – you will receive this from your agency manager
Enter or scan test kit barcode, please enter carefully and do not copy and paste
Enter personal details:
- whether they are a service user or staff member
- whether they have symptoms or not
- date of birth
- email address (for results)
- phone number (for results)
- home postcode
- NHS number (optional, note that this is important to update the subjects’ NHS records)
Check your answers
Test kit registration confirmed
Receive confirmation of registration via email
If there are any problems with registering a test kit, please call 119.
Correct registration of test kits is vital.
Numbers of registered kits are relatively small in comparison to the number of ordered kits. Please reiterate to your workers the importance of testing and correct registration. By doing this we will continue to understand the spread of the virus and be in a better position to prevent further spread.
3.5 Returning test kits
Each test kit contains a pink pre-paid return label. Please attach this to the delivery packaging next to the security seal. If there is no label in the kit please check in the box that the kits were delivered in. If additional support is needed please call 119.
The test kit should be returned via a Royal Mail priority box.
Only use a Royal Mail priority post box. It will be labelled with the a ‘Priority Box’ sign and one of the regional NHS logos. Please do not enter any Post Office with the kit.
To ensure samples reach the laboratories in time:
- please post the kit at least one hour before the last collection time to ensure that is not missed
- locate your nearest priority post box and collection times in advance of testing – tests should be posted on the day they are completed
- some post boxes do not collect post on Sundays, and so please check if there is a collection available before testing on Sunday
3.6 Receiving results
The person tested will receive:
- an email
- a text message (if a mobile phone number was provided at registration)
The results will also include guidance on next steps for the person tested. We have included example guidance in the next few slides for your information.
Homecare workers should inform their employer of a positive result immediately so that they can protect others that the care worker may have come into contact with at work
3.7 Weekly retesting
After you have completed your first round of testing, homecare workers should continue to test on the same day each week. If you have tested positive, you do not need to retest for 90 days.
- day 1: conduct test on day of planned testing
- day 1: register test online
- day 1: post completed test kit in priority post box
- days 3 to 5: receive result
- repeat testing process every 7 days
If you receive a positive test result please stay or return home and inform your line manager
4. Where to go for help
Coronavirus Testing Contact Centre: call 119. Lines are open from 7am to 11pm daily.
5. Step-by-step guide for homecare workers to register their test kits after completing a test
- confirmation of consent
- enter your 8-digit UON
- select ‘add each person’s details one by one’
- select staff
- enter your name
- enter your date of birth
- enter your gender
- enter your ethnicity. You can select prefer not to say
- enter your work status
- enter your area of work, for example ‘health and social care’
- enter your occupation. You must select an option from the drop-down menu available as you begin typing, but you can say that you are unable to find the correct occupation
- enter the name of your employer
- enter the country you live in
- enter your home postcode. An additional question will ask for the first line of your address
- enter your NHS number. This is used to link the result to your patient record
- select Yes or No depending on whether you have symptoms
- enter date of onset of symptoms
- enter the test kit barcode
- enter the date and time the test was completed. This can be done retrospectively
- enter your email address. Results will be sent to this email address
- enter your mobile phone number if you’d like to receive text notification of your result. If you do not have a mobile or do not want to receive a text, select ‘No’
- check your answers. You are able to change details at this stage
Your test will have now been registered. You will receive confirmation of registration via email. If you do not receive this email, please contact 119 to check that you have registered successfully.
The confirmation page also allows you to register more test kits should you need to.