TEST AND TRACE
The Government has finally announced the test and trace programme which involves both testing of individuals for Covid-19 and tracing anyone they have been in near contact with for more than 15 minutes. The NHSE programme app’s aim is to have a targeted approach in identifying individuals, specific services, locations and areas with high rates of Covid-19 infections so that any localised flare ups can be contained in a more managed manner without the need for national locked downs. For instance the test and trace programme could report on whether Covid-19 infection is located within a specific hospital, care home, a street or area which could result in fewer numbers of individuals being required to self-isolate. The test and trace does not only invite individuals to get tested but also advises self-isolation whether or not they show any symptoms of covid-19. Whilst the programme involves voluntary participation covering testing, releasing personal contacts of others and self-isolation, the Government have said they would not hesitate to make it a requirement to follow any directions given by the test and trace staff if required.
The good news is that finally social care workers including PAs and indeed anyone including disabled people can now ask for the Covid-19 test. However, priority will be given to essential workers including the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector that I would expect to include PAs employed through direct payments by disabled individuals.
The test and trace programme has already been heavily criticised by Deaf people and people with learning difficulties for failing to provide accessible information. However, since threat of judicial review, People First have been provided with a copy of the easy read materials. We wonder whether the App itself is fully accessible that works with assistive technology and where necessary there are paid workers to assist with setting up the app with disabled individuals when required.
Another big issue is safety and security of the App. Every time a minister is asked how we would know any contact from the test and trace programme is genuine and not a scam, the response is you will know. With so much scamming becoming more professionalised and authentic, it may be very difficult to know whether the call is real. The good news is that anyone been contacted by the programme is directed to the NHSE website which hopefully providing an additional layer of security. For more information follow the link https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works#the-nhs-coronavirus-app
Individuals will be encouraged to take the test at one of the network of drive-thru regional testing sites or provided in the home test kit involving taking a swab from their nose and mouth. The drive-thru is only going to be an option for disabled person or PA who are able to drive a car. If unable to drive then the alternative is using the home testing kit which is unlikely to be accessible for many disabled people. The home Covid-19 test may not include test instructions in an accessible format for disabled people with learning difficulties and visual impairments. Additionally, disabled people may experience difficulty in performing the swab test itself physically with or without personal assistance support which would not be picked up by the lab. A negative result may not be accurate if the Covid-19 test had been performed properly by a trained healthcare practitioner. Further, PAs particularly those without Personal Protective Equipment may not want to provide assistance in collecting the swab from the PA user in fear of contracting the virus themselves. There appears to be no option to book an appointment for a face-to-face Covid-19 swab test maybe with the patient’s GP surgery that could arrange a home visit.
There are some ethical issues involved. It could be argued that PA users as an employer should sign up to the test and trace programme so that they are able to protect their employees from Covid-19 if they have or been in near contact with others affected by the virus. However, PA users as employers have a duty to protect their employees’ data and not to reveal their PA’s personal information without prior permission. Whilst some PAs may give permission to provide their personal contact information, others may not for a whole range of reasons. Similarly, PAs may not want to join the test and trace scheme in fear of being told to self-isolate possibility several times over the coming months if they have been in near proximately to others affected by covid-19 virus. If one does not know they have contracted the Covid-19 virus, then there is no duty to self-isolate that will involve taking 14 days off on each occasion.
Whilst the test and trace programme does not appear to be controversial after all why would not we want to be tested and self-isolate for the interests of ourselves and the wider society, there are ethical issues that need to be considered by PAs and PA users. And if PA users are expected to undertake the swabs themselves how accurate will be test result be?
It be good to hear from you whether you have considered using the test and trace app and your views of usage.