The Government has confirmed that GPs, other healthcare workers and patient-facing NHS staff in England will continue to receive free Covid tests.
From Friday (1 April), tests will no longer be free for the general population, and the BMA yesterday expressed concern that NHS staff will have to pay for testing.
However, in a statement issued yesterday evening (29 March), health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that both LFTs and PCR testing will continue to be free for NHS workers.
Free testing will continue to be available for vulnerable patients who are currently eligible for treatments.
The Department of Health and Social Care also announced that updated guidance on ‘Living with Covid’ will be published on 1 April, which will treat Covid ‘like other respiratory illnesses’.
It claimed that while Covid infections and hospitalisations have risen in recent weeks, ‘over 55% of those in hospital that have tested positive are not there with COVID-19 as their primary diagnosis’.
Under the new plans, symptomatic PCR tests will continue to be available for hospital patients, clinically vulnerable patients who are eligible for treatment and people working in high risk settings, including NHS and social care staff.
LFTs will be available for patient-facing health and social care staff, and staff in prisons and immigration centres.
Mr Javid said: ‘Thanks to our plan to tackle Covid we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus. We have made enormous progress but will keep the ability to respond to future threats including potential variants.
‘Vaccines remain our best defence and we are now offering spring boosters to the elderly, care home residents and the most vulnerable – please come forward to protect yourself, your family, and your community.’
Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘As we learn to live with Covid, we are focusing our testing provision on those at higher risk of serious outcomes from the virus, while encouraging people to keep following simple steps to help keep themselves and others safe.
‘The pandemic is not over and how the virus will develop over time remains uncertain.’
The DHSC said it is stockpiling LFTs in case of a new variant of concern, or further outbreak, emerging.
GPs had previously expressed concern they were unable to access LFTs due to the public ordering tests while they remained free.