The number of patients asked to “shield” themselves from coronavirus is expected to reach two million by the end of the month, with GPs being “overwhelmed with requests”.
The government initially announced in March that the shielding group was likely to cover around 1.5m million. But in an online webinar, national primary care leaders said this is expected to increase by another 500,000.
The NHS has asked those at serious risk from coronavirus to stay in their homes at all times for a twelve-week period. This includes people who have had organ transplants, have certain types of cancers and have severe respiratory disorders such as cystic fibrosis.
Those on the shielded list are eligible for food parcels and deliveries of vital supplies such as drugs, but there has been uncertainty over the responsibilities for carrying this out. HSJ understands the original figure of 1.5m was set to reflect the capacity of the public services to meet the needs of the shielded patients.
NHS Digital had originally used central data to identify around one million patients. Then trusts and GPs were asked to identify patients who did not fit the exact definition of those that should be shielded, but who needed protection perhaps as result of physical or mental comorbidities. It was initially expected this would return around 500,000 extra names.
However, an updated list from NHS Digital on 18 April showed it had increased to around 1.85 million, and GP and hospital consultants have now been given two weeks to identify the final 150,000 people in need of this extreme help.
Steve Ryder, medical advisor to the British Liver Trust and consultant physician at Nottingham University Hospital Trust, told the webinar event that GPs were “overwhelmed with requests.”
One leader of a primary care network, who asked not to be named, told HSJ: “It still all seems a mess. There has been some confusion as some hospitals have been writing to patients and the GPs don’t know.
“Some patients not on the list are calling GPs because they think they should be, and other patients are calling because they don’t know why they are on the list. It has ended up causing a lot of additional workload.”
Charities have also been fielding increasing calls from people who are not clear about what they should be doing.
Read the full story on HSJ HERE