MPs say thousands of vulnerable Derbyshire Dales residents put at risk by lack of pandemic planning
Newly published official figures have revealed that more than 1,000 vulnerable people in Derbyshire Dales were not told to shield until months after lockdown began last year.
After the first lockdown was imposed in mid-March last year, the earliest NHS Digital figures show that 1,575 people in Derbyshire Dales were on the shielding list by April 12.
However, local doctors were then asked to review the data, causing the patient count to swell to 2,750 by May 15 – an increase of 75 per cent.
The revelation emerged under scrutiny by MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee, who criticised the postcode lottery which saw the list grow from 1.3million to 2.2m nationally over the same period.
Chairwoman Meg Hllier 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.”
Although most shielding patients no longer need to isolate after vaccination, the national shielding list increased significantly again in February this year, when scientists developed a new tool to assess whether someone is at risk of severe disease or death.
There are now 4,030 people on the shielding list in Derbyshire Dales – 2,455 more than a year previously.
Across England, reviews led shielding numbers to increase by 73 per cent – but this varied from 15 per cent in Carlisle to 352 per cent in the London borough of Hounslow.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said inadequate planning and unclear Government communication made shielding a distressing experience, and jeopardised public 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.
"This led to a huge rise in workload having to contact large numbers of people within a short time frame without comprehensive guidance.”
in response, a Government spokesperson said: “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.”