The government must listen to the public and the experts – and keep free Lateral Flow Tests

As news of NHS experts and health charity leaders opposing the removal of free Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) hits the headlines, the 38 Degrees community has ramped up pressure on the government with a huge petition hand in. 

Our petition calling on the Prime Minister to ensure Lateral Flow Tests remain free, which has been signed by over 153,000 members of the public, has today been handed in to 10 Downing Street.

We’ve also published polling which reveals that 3 in 4 people (75%) oppose the scrapping of free covid tests, and only 1 in 5 would continue testing as regularly should the tests not remain free, sparking fears of the public health implications of such a move. 

The polling, undertaken for 38 Degrees by respected pollsters Survation showed support for our campaign was consistent across different age ranges and political persuasions, with three-quarters of Conservative voters also opposing the removal of free Lateral Flow Tests.  

It’s no surprise there is such strong public feeling on this: these tests have helped us visit vulnerable friends and relatives, go to work and send our kids to school knowing we won’t be putting ourselves and others at risk. Supporters from the 38 Degrees community have shared some of their reasons for backing the campaign, and these stories showcase why access to free Lateral Flow Tests is so important for so many of us: 

“My husband is clinically vulnerable as has cancer. Both our options to see people would diminish if unable to access LFTs quickly and without cost to us.” 

“I volunteer at a food bank and a representative from the local council is often there giving out Lateral Flow Tests. Our clients are all struggling to make ends meet with rising food, energy, clothes, rent costs and having to buy test kids would add to their hardship. Many people would just not take the tests as keeping their children fed, clothed and warm is more important to them.” 

“Free and reliable Lateral Flow Tests mean that I can visit and support my elderly parents, my sister-in-law who has cancer, and my elderly neighbour, without being terrified that I take Covid-19 into their homes.” 

“I would not be able to afford Lateral Flow Tests. I am retired. The rise in energy bills is worrying enough.”

As these stories show only too starkly, if Lateral Flow Tests are no longer free, people will have to choose between buying tests to keep their families safe, or putting food on the table and heating their homes. We cannot allow charges for Covid tests to add to the cost of living – and public health – crisis. The government must listen to the views of leading health experts, and hundreds of thousands of members of the public, and commit to keeping Lateral Flow Tests free and readily available. 

 

NOTES

[1] A petition handed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be handed in to 10 Downing Street on Friday 18 February. The full text of the petition reads as follows:

“Keep lateral flow tests free, so we can all do our bit to help one another stay safe. Please confirm plans to scrap them will not go ahead.”

The petition is online here: https://act.38degrees.org.uk/act/free-lat-flow-petition

[2]  Fieldwork Dates for polling were 14th – 17th of January 2022. The survey was conducted via an online panel. Invitations to complete surveys were sent out to members of the panel. Differential response rates from different demographic groups were taken into account. Population Sampled: Residents aged 18+ living in the UK. Sample Size: 2,036