End of free tests for NHS will impact patient care, GP warns

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GP has warned patient care will be impacted if NHS staff are unable to access free coronavirus tests from April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his Living with Covid plan for England on Monday, saying that free testing for the general public would end on April 1.

Dr Nishant Joshi, a 33-year-old GP based in Luton, Bedfordshire, told the PA news agency the announcement was “definitely going to affect patient care”.

He said visits to vulnerable patients would be especially impacted, adding: “We’re going out to see patients every day at care homes, residential homes, their own homes. These are very vulnerable patients.

“I just worry that we’re going back to treating some of our most vulnerable patients like sitting ducks once again.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out his intention to end universal free testing in England (James Manning/PA) / PA Wire

Dr Joshi also warned the cost of staff getting tests for themselves could become a problem.

He said: “We talk about the cost of a loaf of bread (and) a pint of milk. Are we going to have to start adding in the price of Covid tests as well into our weekly budget? It just seems completely unreasonable at a time when things have never been more expensive.

“Nurses at food banks: how can you look these nurses in the eye and say ‘we know you’re struggling but also we’re going to ask you to pay more?’

“It’s just a very unreasonable thing to do at a time when NHS staff have enough to worry about.”

I just worry that we’re going back to treating some of our most vulnerable patients like sitting ducks once again

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “If NHS staff need tests they will be provided with free tests – that will be a decision for the NHS.

“Even before Covid, the NHS has always sensibly made a decision on tests and keeping their staff safe, because keeping staff safe means keeping their patients safe and it’s always about patient safety.”

Evening Standard – Luton