West Sussex County Times
Thousands of patients missed from shielding list at start of lockdown
Thousands of vulnerable West Sussex patients were not told to shield until several months after the first lockdown began last year, figures have revealed.
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 18,220 patients across West Sussex were on the shielding list by April 12 – the earliest version available.
Doctors were then asked to review the data, causing the patient count to swell to 33,800 by May 15, an increase of 85.5 per cent.
The county’s highest percentage increase was in Chichester (105 per cent), followed by Mid Sussex (86), then Arun (85), Horsham (82), Adur (71), Crawley (67) and Worthing (56 per cent).
Across England, reviews led shielding numbers to increase by 73 per cent.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee criticised the ‘unacceptable’ level of variation, as the list
grew from 1.3 million to 2.2 million nationally.
Chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “The shielding response in the Covid pandemic has particularly exposed the high human cost of the lack of planning for shielding in pandemic-planning scenarios.”
The national shielding list increased significantly again in February, when scientists developed a new tool to assess whether someone is at risk of severe disease or death.
Clinically extremely vulnerable patients have not needed to isolate since April 1, by which point more than 90 per cent had received at least one vaccine dose.
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 spokesman 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 by providing them with shielding guidance and prioritising them for vaccination.”