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Sorry shouldn’t be the hardest word

The NHS’s shielding process was, for want of a better word, a fiasco. GPs were given extreme deadlines, thousands and thousands of patients were wrongly told they were part of the shielding group, thousands more were allowed to continue life without being told they should be shielding, and lots of time was wasted. It’s fair to say it was a mess.

So it was really refreshing to hear NHS England admit as such. In a webinar last week, director of primary care Dr Nikita Kanani said: ‘I hope that we can get the processes better. There are lots of agencies involved and we must get it right. My apologies, for what that is worth.’

Now let’s get this straight – an apology is not sufficient. And it doesn’t give GPs their time back, remove the anxiety of patients wrongly told they should shield, or give protection to genuinely vulnerable patients in the time they were going about their lives unaware.

An apology may pave the way for some honesty about what GPs should expect in the next few weeks

But acknowledging that there were mistakes builds a bit of trust. I’ve said in previous blogs that, during these exceptional times, mistakes will be made – by NHS England, Public Health England, health boards, ministers and yes, even GPs.

I can’t help but feel that a bit of humility on PPE – with ministers able to admit that they have messed this up – will help. An apology won’t protect you from coughing patients, but it may pave the way for some honesty about what GPs should expect in the next few weeks.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at