The QCovid risk tool is being ‘actively reviewed’ after some young, healthy women were being told to shield due to previous gestational diabetes, NHS Digital has said.
Pulse reported on Friday that GPs were being inundated by women who were being told to shield, despite not being at high risk from Covid-19.
Yesterday (Sunday), NHS Digital said gestational diabetes is a risk factor, and when taken in combination with other factors, has led to women correctly being advised to shield.
However, it also acknowledged that there had been cases where the tool was reading gestational diabetes as diabetes, potentially due to coding errors, and as a result otherwise healthy women were incorrectly being told to shield.
Last week, NHS England approved the use of the QCovid risk tool to identify patients who should be shielding because they are at higher risk of complications from Covid-19.
The risk factors taken into account by the tool include gender, age, ethnicity, deprivation, BMI and underlying health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Previously, patients had been identified by single risk factors.
As a result, NHS England wrote to another 1.7 million patients last week, informing them they have been added to the shielding patient list through the tool, with GPs asked to prioritise 820,000 of these for Covid vaccination.
But Pulse reported on Friday that many healthy women were contacting practices having been told they should be shielding, prompting the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to ‘investigate’ the issue.
At the weekend, NHS Digital said: ‘Some women with previous gestational diabetes have been identified by the QCovid model as being at high risk. This will be appropriate for many as the model performs an individual assessment based on a wide range of risk factors, and also considers an individual’s risk in comparison to others of the same age and sex.
‘However, because the risk assessment is based on routinely coded data from multiple systems some women may have been identified as having diabetes when in fact they had gestational diabetes. Others may have incomplete data in which case the risk tool may have defaulted, on a precautionary basis, to a higher level of risk for that category and this may influence the overall assessment results.’
It added that QCovid is a ‘living’ model, and will continue to be refined. It said: ‘Active review is underway and further information will be communicated as soon as it is available.’
Dr Partha Kar, NHS England national specialty adviser for diabetes, said: ‘Thank you to GP colleagues for flagging this issue on Friday which has further resulted in the NHS England diabetes team working with the Department of Health and Social Care, the NHS England primary care team and the QCovid team to look into this and make it clear about issues around previous gestational diabetes.
‘The good news is this is now being looked into and more a case of overestimation due to potential issues of coding, rather than an underestimate.’