'Deadly mistake': Don't scrap free Covid tests for Lancashire care home visitors, says Alzheimer's Society

A Lancashire charity manager fears the Government’s scrapping of free Covid tests for care home visitors could be a “deadly mistake”.

By Laura Longworth
Friday, 4th March 2022, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 11th March 2022, 12:14 pm

Dementia symptoms worsened for many residents during lockdown due to a lack of visits from friends and family, according to research by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Tara Edwards, the charity’s Lancashire manager, believes many people will struggle to afford to pay the potential monthly cost of £73 for their own daily lateral flow tests when visiting care home residents. She says they may be forced to reduce their visits in order to keep their loved ones safe, particularly as fuel and food prices continue to rise.

Tara said: “Lateral flow tests offer vital reassurance to families desperate to protect their loved ones with dementia from Covid. Following the devastating levels of infection and deaths in care homes that were caused by insufficient testing in the early part of the pandemic, there is a risk that we face repeating this deadly mistake.

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“With 17,000 people in Lancashire living with dementia, families should not be financially penalised for trying to do their best and keep their vulnerable loved ones safe. Throughout the pandemic, care home residents have been the first to endure the risks and the last to enjoy the freedoms.”

Three-quarters of people in the North-West disagree with the Government’s decision, reveals the charity, which has launched a petition calling on Health Secretary Sajid Javid to reverse it.

Tara is now asking people to sign the petition, which has amassed more than 5,000 signatures in less than a week, more than 730 of which are from the North-West.

“Public opposition is clear; it’s time for the Government to rethink their plans and make lateral flow tests free for all visitors to care homes,” she said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the decision last month as part of a wider scheme to end free testing from Friday, April 1, in the Government's “Living with Covid-19” plan. A major high street pharmacy chain then confirmed they would be selling five lateral flow tests for £12.

People living with dementia make up at least 70 percent of care home residents, according to the charity. More than 34,000 people with dementia have died of Covid-19 – many of those were residents in care homes.