• More than 107,000 people being told they no longer need to isolate
  • The overall list has grown to 2.2 million as new “vulnerable” patients have been identified

Over 100,000 people have been incorrectly informed that they were “extremely vulnerable” to coronavirus and needed to self-isolate until 30 June, HSJ has discovered.

They are now being removed from the “vulnerable” or “shielded” patients list in “batches”.

The NHS started writing to people deemed at high risk from the virus on 23 March, telling them to isolate themselves for at least 12 weeks. The initial list of qualifying patients was put together in haste in mid-March. The speed and complexity of the process meant errors were included, such as sending letters to more than 10,000 dead patients.

Inclusion on the shielded patient list means people are eligible for ongoing government support, including food parcels and medicine deliveries.

The list initially totalled around 900,000, after being compiled by NHS Digital using hospital data and a set of clinical conditions developed by the chief medical officer, including solid organ transplant recipients and certain types of cancer.

GPs were then instructed to flag additional patients either as high risk and in need of shielding, and to identify those not eligible for shielding. Since this stage, and after various campaign groups and charities had lobbied for other conditions to be included, the list has expanded to around 2.2 million.

Initial government guidance was for shielded people to stay isolated for 12 weeks, though the government is now advising people to stay shielded until 30 June, “subject to ongoing review” and irrespective of when they were told to start shielding, according to a bulletin sent to GPs this morning.

GPs have been provided with pro forma letters to inform people that they were incorrectly included on the vulnerable patient list.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “People are added and removed from the shielding list regularly based on their GPs clinical judgement, with 2.16 million patients identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable so far.

“GPs are best placed to advise on the needs of their individual patients during this time and if anybody is concerned they should be included on the list, they should discuss with their GP.”

Update: this post was updated at 13.10 on 6 May to change the first bullet point to reflect the process for informing patients is ongoing and at 13.40 to include a comment from DHSC.