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The number of extremely vulnerable people at high risk of coronavirus who have been asked to “shield” themselves for 12 weeks is to be increased to two million people by the end of the month.
Initially, the shielding group was expected to be around 1.5 million people, but GPs have been “overwhelmed with requests” and the system “still all seems a mess”. Hospitals have been writing to patients without the GPs knowledge, causing confusion, “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”. Charities have also been fielding increasing calls from people who are not clear about what they should be doing.
People falling into this highest clinical risk group include people who have had solid organ transplants, people with specific cancers, such as blood or bone marrow cancers, or those on chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted cancer treatments, people taking immunosuppressants, people with severe respiratory conditions, rare diseases or who are pregnant and with significant heart disease. More information can be found on our coronavirus page here.
People in the high risk group are eligible for food parcels and drug deliveries, but there has been uncertainty over who is responsible for carrying this out.
The high risk group of people were initially identified by NHS Digital. Hospitals and GPs were then asked to identify patients who did not exactly fit the definition of high clinical risk, but who needed to “shield” as a result of underlying physical or mental health issues. It was thought that this process would identify around 1.5 million people; however, in reality the number is much higher.
It has also been confirmed that people on dialysis and people who have had their spleens removed also need to “shield”.