THE director of public health responsible for England’s largest county has spoken of the importance of limiting the time taken to test for Covid-19 in care homes as part of the national Test and Trace programme.

Launching North Yorkshire’s plan to prevent and manage outbreaks of the virus which will be considered by the county council’s leading members next week, Dr Lincoln Sargeant revealed it had taken up to 20 days for some care homes in the county to receive a testing kit after requesting one.

He said the new plan would seek to address stark inequalities in the risks and outcomes of the virus.

A report to the authority’s executive states there had been 1,350 cases of Covid-19 confirmed by tests carried out at hospitals and community testing sites, but it was likely that there had been many more cases in the


It said while there had been 498 Covid-related deaths in the county to June 12, “North Yorkshire may be lagging behind the UK”.

The report highlights issues authorities in the county have in targeting resources, stating while death rates from Covid-19 in England’s least deprived areas are less than half those most deprived communities, but in North Yorkshire the link is less clear.

New figures in the report show Scarborough, the most deprived district, has the highest rate of cases in the county, but is only fourth out of seven districts in terms of mortality. Conversely, Harrogate, the least deprived district, has the second highest mortality rate. Richmondshire and Hambleton have seen among the highest rates of infection despite also being among the wealthier areas.

Outlining the challenge ahead, Dr Sargeant’s report emphasises how age has been a significant factor in outcomes for the virus nationally and the average age of residents in North Yorkshire of 48.2 years – almost eight years above the UK average. In addition, four of the county’s districts have high proportions of people aged over 65.

However, the county has a lower proportion of its population from ethnic minority groups, who are are significantly more likely to die from Covid-19, compared to England.

The report states various schemes have been developed to improve testing for the most vulnerable, adding: “A critical issue within North Yorkshire is the time taken for testing specifically in care home settings.

“The time from requesting swabs to receiving the results has often been too long to support effective public health actions. The average number of days from a test requested to a test delivered to care homes has been 12 days for those care homes requesting a test where residents have symptoms.

“The maximum time from requesting a test kit to delivery has been 20 days.”

Dr Sargeant said developments in testing would mean the county would be able to offer a rapid and flexible approach to accessing testing.