Some of Britain’s most vulnerable people, who should stay at home and be entirely shielded from the risks of coronavirus, have still not been told so two weeks into the UK’s lockdown, health officials have admitted.
Last month, the NHS said around 1.5 million of those at greatest risk should be sent letters and offered special help to make sure they could stay at home entirely.
Although everyone has been asked to stay at home as much as possible, especially the over-70s, the most vulnerable were supposed to be fully “shielded”, with groceries and medications brought to them.
But on Tuesday, Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said work was ongoing to identify everyone in this group, with a second wave of letters alerting patients that they are in this category only going out this week.
Prof Whitty told the Downing Street press conference: “There is this particular vulnerable group of around about, just under 1.5 million people, who we are very keen to have the absolute minimum contact possible for quite a long period of time.
“There is a group of people who we are able to identify which is the great majority, who have been written to in the first wave, and there’s a second wave of letters going out today from NHS Digital – or over this week – where we have identified centrally from their medical records that this is necessary.”
Transplant recipients, people with conditions such as cystic fibrosis and those undergoing cancer treatments like chemotherapy should be on the list. But many patients have said they are yet to hear from the NHS and are uncertain what action they should be taking.
Prof Whitty said some charities and GPs had identified individuals at risk who had been added to the original lists.
He added that some of those who were told they should be “shielded” had decided they did not want to be fully isolated, giving the example of those with a terminal diagnosis and in the last stages of life.