Private health firms have come under fire for profiting from the coronavirus pandemic by selling thousands of testing kits for up to £295 each – while frontline NHS workers go without.
One chain of private clinics in the Midlands has ramped up the cost of its home delivery coronavirus testing kit from £149 to £249 in just a matter of days – a 67% price increase.
Another firm, which normally lets patients book face-to-face GP appointments via an app in London, is selling home tests for £295, boasting laboratory results within 72 hours for what it warns is a “lethal” disease.
It comes amid growing concern that NHS workers are not getting access to tests, with some forced into isolation for two weeks if someone in their household is showing symptoms – meaning they cannot treat patients.
Summerfield Healthcare – which runs three private clinics in Derby, Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton – is selling home delivery Covid-19 testing kits for £249 that people can carry out themselves by using a throat swab. Customers then send them to one of two laboratories.
The firm increased the cost of the tests in recent days from £149 citing increased demand and supplier costs. The website of the company, which is registered with the Care Quality Commission, states: “Coronavirus testing – due to exceptional demand and rising supplier costs we have been forced to increase our test price to £249.”
Asked to justify the perceived unfairness of those who could afford to pay being tested before frontline NHS workers, Dr Grant Charlesworth-Jones, medical director at Summerfield Healthcare, said: “Do you want an honest quote? I think it’s grossly unfair. If you want to look after anyone, you’ve got to look after the care workers and the caregivers, otherwise you’ve got no personnel fabric with which to run the system on which you’re relying to run this pandemic.”Challenged on why he was profiting from selling the tests if he believed it was grossly unfair, he said: “It’s very simple, because as a commercial organisation, unless we make a profit we would actually go bust.”