Coronavirus: ‘High risk’ list misses off thousands of people

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The government has said that about 1.5 million people have been identified as a "shield".

Thousands of people have been removed from the government's high-risk list for Covid-19 despite meeting the criteria.

Among them were transplant patients, people with asthma and some with rare lung diseases.

Many fear that this will affect their ability to access food and medical supplies as they protect themselves from the virus and cannot leave their homes for at least 12 weeks.

Supermarkets have used the list to give vulnerable customers priority, meaning that those that are not included have already missed opportunities for which they could have been considered.

Lucy Pearson: transplant recipient

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Pearson family

"It's like she was forgotten," said Bev Pearson, mother of 20-year-old heart transplant patient Lucy Pearson.

Miss Pearson of Whitsbury, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, had her transplant 14 years ago and is still visiting the hospital for regular checkups.

She has shielded the house she shares with her mother, brother, and sister – none of them have set out to protect them.

"I managed to book three food delivery slots before they were all isolated, but I can't get food delivery slots afterwards," said Ms. Pearson.

Even though she had put her daughter on the government list herself, she said she hadn't received any confirmation.

When she asked her family doctor, she was told that "this had nothing to do with the surgery," she added.

Ms. Pearson said a neighbor is currently helping to collect medicine for Lucy, but she is "concerned about getting food."

"We're fine for a few weeks, but what after? We have 11 weeks left."

She said she found other transplant patients in the same position and said, "People are starting to feel desperate."

Liz Goldfinch: patient with lung disease

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Liz Stieglitz

"It would be pretty unlikely that I would survive if I had a corona virus," said 79-year-old Liz Goldfinch.

Ms. Goldfinch from Droitwich, Worcestershire, isolates herself from her 88-year-old husband because she has cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonia (COP) – a rare lung disorder – and Parkinson's disease.

"I haven't received a letter yet, and if I am removed from the list, I'm probably pretty upset and worried," she said.

"At the moment we are fine because we have neighbors who have helped deliver food and everything else that we might need.

"I think it all depends on how long it takes. If they can't help anymore, if they get sick or whatever, it could be a problem.

"So far I haven't been able to get a supermarket delivery point, so that would be a problem if nobody could help us."

Ms. Goldfinch said she hoped that she would not be forced into a position that meant that she or her husband would have to leave the house.

"If I just get a cold or flu, my COP means I'm very likely to end up in the hospital," she said.

"This has happened twice in the past three years. I suspect it would be a much worse situation if I were infected with corona virus."

Shivani Mistry: dealing with asthma

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Shivani Mistry

"Sometimes I can have three or four asthma attacks in a day if I have a cold and I find it really difficult to breathe," said Shivani Mistry from Telford, Shropshire.

The 23-year-old lives in a shared apartment and has tried to isolate herself from the rest of her roommates.

"I'm not angry that I was removed from the list because there are more vulnerable people than me, but it's a terrible situation," she said.

"I can ask for help, but I don't like to ask," said Mistry Mistry. She said money was also a problem because she had no cash in the house.

"I had to wait three weeks for a grocery delivery – I still have a week, so I survived the very last of my supplies from the previous week, which should only last a week.

"For three days I only lived on potatoes.

"My friend sent me face masks so that I could risk going to the store I tried, but it's very scary.

"It was just crazy how many people were not considerate and kept their distance. People streamed past me."

Who needs to shield?

People who have been determined to need shielding:

  • Organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific types of cancer: people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for lung cancer; those with cancer of the blood or bone marrow; those who have immunotherapy or other ongoing cancer antibody treatments; those who are undergoing other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system; those who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the past six months or who are still taking immunosuppressive agents
  • People with severe respiratory problems, including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • People with rare diseases and congenital metabolic disorders that significantly increase the risk of infection (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cells)
  • People who receive immunosuppression therapies that are sufficient to significantly increase the risk of infection
  • People who are pregnant with significant congenital heart disease

Source: NHS England

NHS Digital, which compiled the list, said it had identified approximately 900,000 patients who should have already received an official letter or text.

However, it was said that general practitioners and hospital doctors would now add another 600,000 patients.

It was also recommended to register with the Government website if they needed additional help and support.

The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Royal College of General Practitioners have also instructed those who feel off the list to contact their general practitioners.

Prof. Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "Family practices are working hard to inform patients who are classified as vulnerable and who are at higher risk of receiving Covid-19 about the measures they take should take to keep as safe as possible. "

He said the information was collected from GP computer systems and added, "Every effort is being made to ensure that the data is correct."

"We are in a constantly changing situation and NHS England is currently updating its guidelines for general practitioners on the care of vulnerable patients," he said.

Defra also said it was working "quickly" to support those who do not fall into the "clinically at risk" category, but still need help, including the elderly and people with disabilities.

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