70% of public against scrapping free tests for care home visits - Government face repeating ‘deadly mistake'

Price on visiting care homes is ‘penalising’ those trying to keep loved ones safe, Alzheimer’s Society says.

An Alzheimer’s Society poll today reveals that 70% disagree with the Government’s decision to scrap free lateral flow tests for care home visitors1, while only 18% agree with the plans.

The results of the poll come as an Alzheimer’s Society petition, calling on the Health and Social Care Secretary to reverse the decision, surpassed 5,000 signatures in less than a week2.
 
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced plans last week to scrap free Covid-19 tests for people visiting loved ones in care homes, as part of the wider scheme to end free testing from 1 April in the Government's 'Living with Covid-19' plan.
 
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, a major high street pharmacy chain confirmed they would be selling five lateral flow tests for £12. For someone visiting their loved one daily, this would amount to a potential cost of £73 per calendar month.
 
People living with dementia make up at least 70% of care home residents. Visits from loved ones are essential to their health and wellbeing, with increasing evidence demonstrating people’s symptoms of dementia had worsened during the pandemic due to long periods of isolation away from loved ones who were unable to visit3.
 
Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at Alzheimer’s Society 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 was caused by insufficient testing in the early part of the pandemic, there is a risk that we face repeating this deadly mistake.'

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. 
 
'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.'
 
In the early stages of the pandemic, thousands of patients were promptly discharged from hospitals. The majority of those discharged were not tested for Covid-19, which led to the virus spreading quickly in those homes and high death rates.

During the pandemic, more than 34,000 people with dementia have died of Covid-19 – many of those were residents in care homes.

References

  1. Alzheimer’s Society poll (conducted by Yonder Consulting between 28 February– 1 March 2022) UK respondents. Base = 2080.

    To the question, ‘Do you agree with the Government's proposal to scrap free access to lateral flow tests for visitors to care home residents?’
    • 70% (1459) answered ‘No’
    • 18% (372)  answered ‘Yes’
    • 12% (249) answered ‘Don’t Know’
       
  2. Alzheimer’s Society petition, launched Saturday 26 February 2022
     
  3. Alzheimer’s Society ‘Worst Hit’ report, PDF (2020)

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We are calling on Health Secretary Sajid Javid to keep LFD tests free for visitors to care homes. Let's tell the Government not to put a price on visiting loved ones.

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