Concerns about asymptomatic care home testing providing “false reassurance” – Hancock
MPs have heard that at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there were worries that testing asymptomatic hospital patients before discharge into care homes could provide “false confidence” that they were free of the virus.
According to clinical advice, testing someone who doesn’t have symptoms “may easily return a false negative, therefore giving false certainty that that person doesn’t have the condition.”
Clinicians were also concerned that, because of the four-day turnaround time for testing, people could travel to a care home with a negative result but have contracted the virus in the meanwhile.
“We put out a policy that people would be tested when tests were available,” the Health Secretary told the Science and Health Committees at Westminster. Then I started about increasing our testing capacity so that we could meet that goal.
The words “we tried to” are, in my opinion, the most important in the phrase. It was quite difficult.
“The problem wasn’t only that we didn’t have the testing capacity; it was also that clinical advice said that testing someone who didn’t have any symptoms may easily result in a false negative, giving false certainty that they didn’t have the condition.
“At the same time, physicians were concerned that because it takes four days to turn a test around, if they left someone in the hospital for four days, they would contract Covid and return to a care home with a negative result but having contracted it.”
Mr Hancock stated that the best estimate from Public Health England is that hospital discharges were responsible for 1.6 percent of the transmission into care homes.
But, given that “we simply don’t have the evidence since people weren’t tested,” Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee Greg Clark wondered if this wasn’t a “stretch of the imagination” to believe.
Mr Hancock believes it is the “best evaluation that can be made, given the facts on the ground in terms of what is and isn’t measurable,” according to him.
He stated that he knows why people are so passionate about it. (This is a brief piece.)