The decision to scrap free lateral flow tests for care home visitors could be a “deadly mistake,” The Alzheimer’s Society has warned.
Thousands of people in Hertfordshire face paying around £70 a month to safely visit loved ones with dementia in care homes following a controversial decision to scrap free lateral flow tests from April 1.
The Alzheimer’s Society is so concerned that, following the announcement – which is part of the Government’s Living With Covid-19 plan – its chief executive Kate Lee wrote a letter to health and social care secretary Sajid Javid urging an immediate rethink.
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Claire Stockwell-Lance, area manager for Alzheimer’s Society in Hertfordshire, 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 into care homes at the start of the pandemic resulted in tens of discharges of thousands of residents catching the virus and by not offering free tests to visitors the Government is in danger of repeating the same, deadly mistake. ”
Pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer Boots recently announced that it would be selling packs of five lateral flow tests for £12 early this month.
It means that those wishing to visit loved ones daily would have to pay £73 per calendar month.
It is estimated that at least 70 per cent 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 .
Ms Stockwell-Lance continued: “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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“Ending the need for people to self-isolate after a positive test will also leave many feeling anxious about catching coronavirus as they try to get on with their lives.
“Social isolation has already wrought untold devastation on people affected by dementia and the Government must now ensure that its Living with Covid-19 plan works for everyone, not just those less vulnerable to coronavirus.”
The Alzheimer’s Society is calling for care home visiting guidelines to be as clear as possible, along with rules on self-isolation and access to PPE for health and care staff.
The charity wants free lateral flow testing for everyone living with dementia and their carers, and to see the over-75 booster drive prioritize care homes and those receiving care in their own homes.
“It is now vital that we learn the lessons of the pandemic and ensure that we protect and support people with dementia who are still suffering from its impact,” added Ms Stockwell-Lance.
Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 900,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, with an estimated 16,000 people living in Hertfordshire.
Those with the condition were the worst hit by the pandemic, with more than 30,000 losing their lives to the virus.
For more information or to show the Alzheimer’s Society your support, visit alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/our-campaigns
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