Gateshead mother of vulnerable daughter 'frustrated' over end of free Covid tests

A mum from Gateshead in the North East said she is "frustrated" at the lack of consideration for vulnerable at risk groups when it comes to the government's decision to end free Covid-19 lateral flow tests.

The free tests will end on Friday 1 April, though the government said some at-risk groups will still be able to access them.

Eleanor Baggaley, who has asthma and had to shield during the pandemic with three-year-old daughter, Eva, who has Down's Syndrome, told ITV News Tyne Tees: "I think when they go to not being available, people just aren’t going to bother.

"I work across two or three schools each week. It’s being exposed to people who you just don’t know, you’ve not got that layer of protection that was there or has been there up until now.

"It is frustrating that there isn’t that consideration for the more vulnerable members of society."

Who frustrations are shared by doctors in the North East. Dr George Rae, a member of the North East Local Medical Committee, said health professionals like himself will have to stump up the cost of two lateral flow tests each week, in order to do their jobs.

He said: "Doctors like myself who are going into see patients, they will have to have covid lateral flow tests twice weekly and at the present time, to the best of my knowledge, they are going to have to pay for that.

"So I would be saying, ‘is that fair that doctors who are going into see patients are having to pay for those tests?’"

It is understood social care workers and NHS patients will still be able to access the free Covid tests, but with the cost of living hugely on the minds of many workers in the region, this extra cost could tip some over the edge, according to the Royal College of Nursing, when it comes to their personal finances.

Mel Kerr, vice Chair of the RCN, said: "Fifty extra pounds a month, potentially more, to ensure that we can work safely is really, really worrying for me.

"You know, we have nursing staff and healthcare staff who struggle on a daily, weekly, even monthly basis, to makes ends meet, to ensure that they can pay the bills, feed themselves and their families.

"To then add more expenses on top of that is a real concern."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "As we learn to live with Covid, free testing should rightly be focused on at-risk groups. 

"After 1 April, limited testing will still be made available for a small number of at-risk groups - the government will shortly set out further details on which groups will be eligible.

“Vaccines remain our best wall of defence which is why we are now offering over-75s and the most vulnerable a spring booster dose to top up their protection against this virus."