Research by the Rural Services Network showed that 73 per cent of councils said that testing in rural care settings was a significant barrier.
Nearly 25 per cent of England’s rural population is over 65 and seven of the 10 councils questioned by Rural Services Network warned that social care workers were having to travel at least 30 minutes by car to access Covid-19 tests with nearly a quarter reporting having to travel up to an hour.
Prior research has found that less public funding is directed towards rural residents than in urban areas, despite the higher cost of providing social care services in more remote towns and villages.
In 2020/21, the average predominantly urban resident will attract £40 per head in Improved Better Care Funding, £7 per head more than rural residents per head.
Graham Biggs, chief executive of the Rural Services Network, said: “The findings of this survey are very worrying. Government, as a matter of extreme urgency, should complete its Fair Funding Review and implement it for 2021/22.
“This is essential to help level-up the provision of social care services in rural areas, taking full account of their delivery cost in more sparsely populated areas. This would also enable improved or more consistent engagement with and commissioning of ‘low level’ support services for vulnerable rural residents, which are typically delivered locally by voluntary and community sector organisations.
“In the meantime, additional government funding for rural councils to meet service needs and the costs associated with the pandemic is urgently needed if the worries expressed in this survey are to be countered.”
Kate Blackburn, director of public health for Wiltshire said: “Earlier this year the government introduced regular Covid testing for adult care home residents and staff, which involves homes testing staff weekly and residents every 28 days.
“There have been high levels of uptake of this regular testing offer across Wiltshire, meaning those who test positive can be promptly isolated, reducing the number of people who can spread the virus and protecting the most vulnerable.
“In some cases, there have been delays in results returning to the homes due to delays in processing, and processing is being addressed nationally with capacity due to be increased over the coming weeks.
“Access to testing in rural areas continues to be available with mobile testing sites across the county and anyone with symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 should self-isolate and seek a test via 119 or https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. Our providers are not currently reporting any issues with PPE.”