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Health minister says NHS England were notified ahead of shielding update

A health minister has claimed it is ‘factually untrue’ that NHS England was unaware of the latest update to shielding guidance.

Jo Churchill made the comment last week in response to a written parliamentary question from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

Shielding patients were suddenly told they could go outside last month, seemingly to the surprise of NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani.

Ms Lucas asked the health secretary ‘for what reason the primary care medical director for NHS England was not told in advance of the announcement on 30 May 2020 of the new guidance issued by the Government for people shielding and classed as extremely clinically vulnerable to Covid-19’.

Ms Lucas also asked when NHS England were ‘directly’ informed of the new guidance and what consultation the Government undertook with GPs charities before making the changes.

In response, Ms Churchill said: ‘It is factually untrue to suggest that NHS England were not aware of the shielding guidance being updated. 

‘We have engaged extensively with partners and the healthcare system, including NHS England and NHS Digital, throughout this process and will continue to do so.’

NHS England was approached for comment.

Last week, GP leaders warned it is ‘vital’ that GPs are informed of plans for the next steps of the shielding programme so that they are able to advise patients.

The Government confirmed that the future of the programme beyond the end of June is under review, but that discussions are still ongoing as to how and when GPs will be informed of any changes.

It followed an admission from the deputy chief medical officer that there had been a ‘hiccup’ in communications over the previous change to the guidance, when earlier this month patients were told out of the blue they could go outside.