Vulnerable people ‘missed out’ on support

Up to 800,000 clinically vulnerable people may have missed out on government support in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, because of a lack of “joined-up systems”, according to a cross-party report by MPs. 

The Public Accounts Committee said “poor data” meant that it took too long to urgently identify people. 

An initial NHS list of 1.3 million people eligible for support became a “postcode lottery” after local GPs and hospital doctors were invited to use their clinical judgement to add or remove people, with resulting increases ranging from between 15 to 352 per cent in different local authority areas and the list growing to 2.2 million people. 

A central contact centre set up to trace people who did not respond to an initial letter advising them to shield was unable to reach 800,000, despite making hundreds of thousands of calls a day. 

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said that while the plans were eventually “sensibly” devolved to local authorities, it raised questions about the balance between central decision-making and local knowledge. 

Cllr Paulette Hamilton, Vice-Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities has been councils’ number one priority throughout the pandemic.

“This included supporting those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and needed to be shielded, as well as people outside this group, to access food, tackle loneliness and meet any social care needs.”

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