Care company boss warns end of free Covid testing 'will cost £500,000 a year'

  • Graham Stothard has been asking how people feel about the end of free testing

A care home boss has questioned the government's decision to end free coronavirus testing later this week - and warned that having to buy tests to keep his staff and residents safe could cost half a million pounds a year.

PJ Care currently uses around 2,000 lateral flow tests (LFT) a week as it asks each of its staff members at its centres in Peterborough and Milton Keynes to test every day - all of which is funded by the government.

But that will change from Thursday, when the free supply of tests ends and mass testing centres are wound down for all but the most vulnerable.

Care homes have been on the front line throughout the pandemic as they sought to protect residents who are often either elderly or have complex health conditions, and have often locked down earlier and lifted restrictions later than the rest of the population.

Under the new regulations, only symptomatic NHS and social care staff will have access to free tests - those who do not show signs of coronavirus will have to pay for their own tests.

Neil Russell, chairman of PJ Care, which runs centres for specialist neurological care and rehabilitation for people of all ages, said a government re-think was needed.

Free mass testing came to an end in England on Friday, 1 April. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"I really can't see how they can charge care homes for LFT testing, we're doing LFT testing because it's government guidance," he told ITV News Anglia.

"Here at PJ Care, for example, we're doing 2,000 a week.

"And the cost of charging us for that is just going to be extortionate.

"We could be looking at £300,000 to £500,000 a year."

Among those who will qualify for free tests from Thursday are the over-75s and over-12s with weakened immune systems.

The East of England currently has the highest Covid-19 rates in the country, with one person in every 12 estimated to have the infection.

Where can I buy coronavirus lateral flow tests?

Many commercial suppliers have announced they will be selling lateral flow test kits after the government stops.

Boots is among the companies - and said one test will be £2, a pack of two £3.95 and a pack of five will cost £9.80.

Superdrug is also selling a single test for £1.99.

Meanwhile, costs for private PCR tests - where the results are analysed by a lab - range from £12 and £25, though the costs can double for those who opt for a supervised option.