People are identified as at high risk from COVID-19 (also known as being clinically extremely vulnerable) either by their GP, their hospital specialist or nationally by NHS Digital, using a set of clinical rules defined by the Chief Medical Officer for England.
A technical error was made by NHS Digital when adding new clinical conditions to the Shielded Patient List in November 2020. As a consequence of the error, part of the system continued to refer to previous GP data rather than being refreshed each time the national list was updated with new GP data. This meant that information received from GP practices for some patients was not processed until the error was identified and resolved.
As a result, those patients were not added to the national Shielded Patient List where either:
- they were identified as high risk by their GP (about 8,000 patients)
- the information held in their GP patient record would have resulted in NHS Digital identifying them as high risk through the national rules (about 6,000 patients)
Approximately 284,000 patients were added to the Shielded Patient List during the period in which this technical issue occurred. The error resulted in approximately 4.9% of these patients being missed until the issue was resolved.
Once the technical issue was identified in February 2021, the error was corrected and those patients affected were identified and added to the Shielded Patient List through March and April. Where a patient should have been identified nationally, and had not already been identified by their GP, they were sent a national letter providing information about their high risk status along with appropriate advice and guidance at the time.