- Government-backed rapid testing programme in Newcastle helping homeless and at risk people to stay safe.
- Partnership between the NHS Integrated Covid Hub North East, Changing Lives, Home Group housing association, Newcastle City Council and the UK Health Security Agency is helping to protect people in the city.
- Process will be more accessible and focussed on encouraging twice-weekly testing.
A pioneering Covid-19 testing pilot programme, devised by the NHS Integrated Covid Hub North East, Newcastle City Council, Changing Lives charity and the housing association and social enterprise Home Group, working in partnership with the UK Health Security Agency, is making regular testing available to people in local homeless, vulnerable and at risk communities.
The programme was designed by a dedicated ‘coordination and response’ team, part of the region’s integrated Covid hub, to support people who were known to have been reluctant or found it difficult to access to testing previously.
Individuals are being encouraged and supported to take a rapid flow test themselves, whilst being verbally guided by a trained person. They are then assisted to record their result by smartphone or via 119.
The concept of supported self-test is that, in time, this will give people confidence and a routine to actively test themselves independently, therefore breaking the chain of transmission.
The rapid testing programme supports the Government’s ongoing drive to increase the availability of testing and help stop the spread of Covid-19.
The Integrated Covid Hub North East was established as a partnership between the NHS, local authorities and universities, to provide regional collaboration and resources to tackle the pandemic.
Changing Lives is a charity operating across the north of England and Midlands and helps over 14,000 vulnerable and most in need people every year to change their lives for the better.
Home Group is a housing association, social enterprise and charity and has worked with almost 300 communities and neighbourhoods across the country to deliver safe, high quality and integrated housing as well as health and social care.
Around one in three people who are infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms, so could be spreading the disease without knowing it.
Each positive result from a rapid test is one that would not have been found otherwise, helping break chains of transmission in our communities and workplaces and protecting those at highest risk. These tests will help keep business open, children in school and allow people to visit their loved ones safely.
Rapid testing using lateral flow tests can return results within 30 minutes and can provide the community with reassurance that they are not infectious or enabling them to isolate immediately if they were to test positive.
Professor Stephen Singleton, clinical director at the NHS Integrated Covid Hub North East, said:
“Vulnerable individuals traditionally find it more difficult to access services, including healthcare. The pilot programme brings together expertise and knowledge from the NHS and the third sector, to maximise opportunities for people to take a rapid Covid test.
“Through this partnership we are taking tests to places where people are already accessing other support services, and are then able to have the conversations and provide the advice needed to encourage uptake.
“The aim is to make regular testing a normal and easy thing to do, to reduce onward transmission and ensure individuals received suitable support and care should they need it.”
Stephen Bell, chief executive at Changing Lives said:
“We know that people experiencing homelessness, poverty and other exclusion have been hardest hit by the pandemic. They are also more likely to have other health conditions increasing the risk from Covid-19.
“We have worked with health services for many years to ensure that people without a permanent home can access health services, often bringing health professionals into our supported accommodation services to break down barriers. These strong partnerships have meant we could respond rapidly to ensure that people access tests as a priority.
Bringing testing kits in to our services was critical to success, so there were no obstacles for people and our teams were on hand to talk through fears and support people.”
Stacey Anderson, Senior Client Services Manager at Home Group, said:
“We’re really pleased to be part of this pilot programme as it will help vulnerable people in our region to access testing and stop the spread of Covid-19. Home Group support those from some of the most at risk groups and it’s important for North East organisations to come together and give people the confidence to get tested in order to protect our local communities and way of life.”
Health Minister Lord Bethell said:
“We have already come so far since launching a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to combat COVID-19 and we encourage everyone in local communities to take up the offer of free testing so we can quickly squash any outbreaks.
“Testing is vital to the health and protection of our family, friends and those we worship with, as it allows cases to be caught early before they spread and I am delighted that the Changing Lives charity and the Home Group housing and social enterprise group in Newcastle are working with us to help target the virus locally and keep people safe.
“Twice-weekly testing, alongside vaccine rollout, is critical in helping to suppress and control the spread of new variants of this dreadful disease.”
Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency Jenny Harries said:
“The innovation and evolution of NHS Test and Trace continues to improve our detection of positive cases and I am incredibly proud of the speed at which we have been able to roll out these initiatives in local communities to protect more people even more quickly. This is a national effort and partnerships like this locally are instrumental in our response to this virus.
“Around one in three people with COVID-19 do not display symptoms, meaning you can infect others unknowingly. This rapid testing programme with the Changing Lives charity and the Home Group housing and social enterprise group in Newcastle is one of many that will help find and isolate asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 as we return to a more normal way of life.”