Certain vulnerable people who have been shielding from coronavirus have been dropped from the government’s shielding list by text message.
The Shielded Patients List (SPL) was put in place to help the most vulnerable during the pandemic, but some people have now been informed they are no longer on the list - without being told by their doctors first.
Who has been removed?
People with cancer, liver disease and severe asthma are among those who have been removed from the shielding programme in England, along with liver transplant patients and people on immunosuppressant drugs.
The news has sparked concern among those many patients, particularly since the text message informs the recipient that they will no longer qualify for government food parcels. Those who have been shielding have been entitled to receive parcels and special food deliveries from the government, leaving many worried about how they will cope.
Messages confirmed as legitimate
The government has confirmed that the texts are official. The message reads, “This is an update from the National Shielding Service.
“We understand that your GP or hospital clinician has recommended that you no longer need to follow government advice to shield.
“If you are receiving food delivered via the National Shielding Service, these will now be stopped. This will not affect your eligibility for a supermarket priority delivery slot, or any slots you already have in place.”
The text then provides links to the government coronavirus support site, and urges people to seek medical help if they need to.
Why have these people been removed?
Around 2.2 million people were on the government’s shielding list, according to reports dated 15 May. Of those listed, 1.1 million are between the ages of 18 and 69, while 952,027 are aged over 70, and 92,663 are under 18.
It is not yet known how many people have been removed from the list, after the texts were sent out on 22 May.
The British Liver Trust has advised people to continue to shield, even if they do receive a text, and wait until they have spoken to their doctor.
Alison Cook, director of external affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said the charities had heard from people with both severe asthma and lung disease who have received the text with no explanation. Some claim their doctor had also not been informed of the change.
Ms Cook told The Sun: “This is an utter mess - some people have told us that they have received letters asking them to extend their shielding period to the end of June in line with government policy, while others have been requested to return to work before then. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence or logic behind these letters and texts.
“We have requested urgent clarification from NHS England and call for patients and charities who provide advice and support to be involved in planning any future communication and strongly recommend that people’s GPs are kept informed about what their patients are being sent so they can provide advice.”