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‘Devastating and lasting impact’ on those told to shield

NEW research reveals the devastating and lasting impact on more than four million people who were identified as being ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (CEV) and asked to shield during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The analysis by Health Foundation’s Networked Data Lab (NDL) suggests that there is now significant unmet health need and worsening mental health among this group.

Based on the findings, the Health Foundation is calling for these patients to be prioritised by the NHS to ensure their conditions do not deteriorate further.

The analysis shows that CEV people experienced a higher rate of deaths compared to the general population.

At the peak of the first wave (2 April 2020), the rate of deaths among the CEV population was over two and half times that in the general population.

By the end of August 2020, the CEV population accounted for 19% of all deaths while only making up 4% of the total population in England.

However, as well as the direct impact of Covid-19, in terms of high rates of infections and deaths, CEV people were profoundly impacted by the major reorganisation of NHS services in the early stages of the pandemic.

And even now, while those in the general population are also likely to be experiencing delays for treatment, the research suggests there remains a particularly high level of unmet health need and potential-long term impacts concentrated within the CEV population.

The research also suggests there were significant issues in the way the shielding patient list was compiled. Those who weren’t identified would have missed out on vital support such as food parcels that were delivered to homes, priority delivery slots for online grocery shopping, and a medicine delivery service.

Kathryn Marszalek, senior analytical manager at the Health Foundation, said: “The Government took rapid steps to ensure these people would be protected during the pandemic. Despite this, they have seen worse rates of infection and death from Covid-19 and, having greater health care needs, have been particularly impacted by changes to NHS services during the pandemic.

“However, the negative impact goes beyond the harm to their physical health. Over a period of 10 months, those advised to isolate at home have been unable to take part in usual activities, such as shopping for food, exercising, or seeing friends and family. Our research reveals the toll this has taken on the mental wellbeing of many clinically extremely vulnerable people who were already more likely to suffer from mental health conditions than the general population.

“Action is now needed by those planning the recovery at local and national levels to address the unmet need for NHS care and worsening mental health.

“Failure to prioritise the needs of the clinically extremely vulnerable population will inevitably result in further deterioration in their health, putting additional pressure on the NHS which is already struggling to deal with a massive backlog of care.”

  • The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.


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