Virus tests will cost dementia families £73

Thousands of people in South Tyneside will face paying £70 a month to safely visit loved ones living with dementia in care homes, a leading charity has warned.

Danielle Cooper, area manager for the Alzheimer’s Society in South Tyneside.
Danielle Cooper, area manager for the Alzheimer’s Society in South Tyneside.

The controversial decision to scrap free lateral flow tests from April 1 – included in the Government’s ‘Living With Covid-19’ plan – has been labelled a potentially ‘deadly mistake’ by Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity.

The charity has written to Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid urging an immediate rethink on the changes.

Danielle Cooper, area manager for Alzheimer’s Society in South Tyneside, said: “Free lateral flow tests are a crucial part of protecting people living with dementia in care homes, and it is essential their loved ones have free access to them so they can visit safely.

“A lack of testing when people were shockingly discharged into care homes at the start of the pandemic resulted in tens of thousands of residents catching the virus. By not offering free tests to visitors the Government is in danger of repeating the same, deadly mistake.”

Boots have announced they will be selling packs of five lateral flow tests for £12 from early March – meaning those wishing to visit loved ones daily will have to pay £73 for them each calendar month.

It’s estimated that at least 70% of care home residents have dementia and their families, already impacted by the soaring cost of living, now face having to shell out even more money to ensure the safety of their loved ones or risk passing on coronavirus.

Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 900,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, with almost 4,000 in Sunderland. Those with the condition were the worst hit by the pandemic, with more than 30,000 losing their lives to the virus.

Ms Cooper added: “The scaling back of free community testing will put family members and carers, desperate to keep their loved ones safe, out of pocket at a time when the cost of living is already rising.

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The Alzheimer’s Society wants free lateral flow testing for everyone living with dementia and their carers.

*The £73 figure is based on daily cost of lateral flow tests over 365 days.