Wokingham Borough Council is finalising plans to release additional funding that will support several initiatives across its Covid-19 response. This includes the delivery of rapid tests to enable care home visits before Christmas, building upon its local contact tracing service and supporting the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme across the borough.
Subject to approval from the Council’s Executive this week, £500,000 has been requested to support these initiatives and ensure they can run effectively. Significant work is already being undertaken, with Council employees working tirelessly on the planning and preparation of a local pilot that will support care homes with their rapid testing of visitors. This builds upon the national guidance from the DHSC around the use of Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) to enable increased visiting in care homes.
This is an important step and will mean that care home residents in the borough could have face-to-face contact with loved ones before Christmas. To help local care home providers navigate rapid testing for visitors, the council has made the decision to manage the process and conduct these tests at its Shute End offices. There will be a range of measures in place to ensure the site is as safe as possible.
Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for adult health and social care, said: “Throughout the pandemic, our aim has always been to support our communities as much as possible, particularly our most vulnerable residents in local care homes. There are a lot of administrative and technical logistics involved with rapid testing, which could put additional pressure on care homes that are already under a lot of strain. This is why we have decided to create a central test point at our Shute End offices.
“We will be one of the first boroughs in the UK to undertake a pilot of this kind and a tremendous amount of efforts has gone into its organisation. To be able to facilitate a rapid testing programme and enable residents to visit care homes before, during and after the festive period is extremely rewarding. That said, we will continue to take extra precautions and for safety, visitors will need to keep their distance and still wear full PPE when visiting loved ones.”
In terms of the other programmes identified, the council has already been running a successful contact tracing scheme to support NHS Test and Trace, with the contact tracing success rate currently sitting at 90% across the borough. It is proposed that additional funding will support the continuation of this service and develop a further element of self-isolation support for those who need it.
In addition to this, Wokingham Borough has been allocated a limited number of vaccinations for care home residents and staff. While the roll-out of the vaccination programme is being led by the NHS, it is supported by local authorities and it is expected that the Council will need to provide additional support to partners as the programme expands. This will require additional resource to manage and coordination the programme locally.
Cllr Charles Margetts continues: “We are continuing to dedicate a huge amount of resource to our Covid response and we’re really proud of these efforts. However, we must remember that it will be some time before we see the impact of certain initiatives, such as the vaccine programme, on our case rates. Therefore, it’s still extremely important that we adhere to the rules under the Tier 2 (High) restrictions and follow social distancing guidance to prevent a rise in community transmission rates during the rollout of these programmes.”