• GPs have been given a new deadline to identify additional patients who are most at risk from covid-19 
  • Practices previously given an Easter Monday deadline by NHS England 
  • Patients not yet included on national lists but require “urgent” support should contact local authorities, new guidance has advised

GPs have until Tuesday to ensure the NHS’s central list of patients “at risk” and in need of shielding from coronavirus is correct.

Practices have been set a deadline of 5pm on 14 April to validate the list of people who should be shielded from covid-19 and receive government support while in 12-week isolation, according to the latest guidance from NHS England. 

The national commissioner and NHS Digital have been compiling a list for the past three weeks and GPs must now go through their patient records to review those flagged as most at risk from the virus.

On Friday, GPs were asked to either upgrade those patients not listed as at risk but should be, or downgrade those unnecessarily placed in the top risk category.

NHSE said there would be a “time lag” in adding patients, flagged as at risk by GPs, to the central database and advised those who need urgent support in the interim should contact their local authority.

GPs will also need to review patients that self-identified as vulnerable through a central government portal before 29 March by the end of next week.

This is the latest stage in the long-running attempt by the NHS to create a list of patients who have underlying health conditions, including specific forms of cancer, or are in some way immunosuppressed and are therefore especially vulnerable to the virus.

GPs were originally asked on 21 March to help construct the list of the most vulnerable patients by identifying those on their lists with “complex/severe multi-morbidity” and writing to them to “recommend they are considered for inclusion in the shielding group”.

National bodies subsequently told GPs in 3 April guidance that additional patients would instead be identified centrally.

Last week HSJ reported GPs and commissioners in Liverpool had already written to 37,000 additional patients they believed were at high risk but were subsequently told by NHSE the patients may not meet the criteria.

Nikki Kanani, a GP and director of primary care at the NHS, said: “GPs, like all staff from across the NHS are pulling out all the stops to respond to the biggest global health emergency in a century and while this is an additional task, the vast majority are working this weekend to look after their patients, with practices open for business as usual.

“The government has established a national support offer to make sure those who are at highest risk from covid-19 have access to medicines and basic supplies and as part of that, GPs are working hard to ensure all relevant patients have been identified locally.”