Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation responds to the National Audit Office’s report: Protecting and supporting the clinically extremely vulnerable during lockdown on the effectiveness of the government’s shielding programme. She said:
“Poor data on people with lung conditions has meant that some of the most vulnerable to Covid-19 have had to face agonising waits to find out whether they should shield or not, leaving them in distress and without vital support and supplies during the first national lockdown.
“We have heard from people who were sent a shielding letter in error, causing confusion and from others, who should have received a letter and were left unable to prove that they were clinically extremely vulnerable for weeks, forcing them to put their lives at risk and go into the workplace when they should have been at home.
“There’s an opportunity here to learn from mistakes and confused communication. The government must prioritise better data collection and better access to that data, so that the most vulnerable can be easily identified and contacted during future waves of any life-threatening transmissible infection. Even now, a year later, some people shielding are still struggling to access food deliveries and essentials. The government must continue to fund local councils so that everyone who needs help can access food and medicines.”