Thousands of East Riding patients missed from shielding list at start of lockdown, figures reveal
Thousands of vulnerable patients in the East Riding were not told to shield until months after lockdown began last year, figures reveal.
A group of MPs said the Government’s lack of planning created a postcode lottery with areas across England reporting unacceptable variations in the number of people shielding.
The Government originally asked those considered to be the most vulnerable to Covid-19 to isolate at home in March last year. NHS Digital figures show 9,185 patients in the East Riding were on the shielding list by April 12 – the earliest version available. Local doctors were then asked to review the data, causing the patient count to swell to 14,315 by May 15 – an increase of 56%.
Across England, reviews led shielding numbers to increase by 73% – but this varied hugely regionally, from just 15% in Carlisle to 352% in the London borough of Hounslow.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the “unacceptable” level of variation was evidence of a postcode lottery, as the list grew from 1.3 million to 2.2 million.
The British Medical Association said inadequate planning and unclear Government communication made shielding a distressing experience, and jeopardised the public’s health and wellbeing.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul added: “The shielding lists could have been created more quickly and effectively rather than shifting criteria and suddenly increasing the number of people on the list.”
The Government said it delivered an urgent national scheme to contact people and provide them with vital food and medicine so they could shield – but many chose not to take up the offer.
A spokesperson added: “These report findings are disappointing and misjudged. We have learned more about the virus and adapted our approach, which has enabled us to protect those most vulnerable.”