HEALTH officials are urging patients not to contact their GP practice if they have not yet received a Government coronavirus social ‘shielding’ letter.

Just under one million extremely vulnerable people across the UK, at highest risk of needing hospital treatment if they catch Coronavirus, have already been contacted by NHS England asking them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks.

But doctors across County Durham are now reporting high numbers of patients contacting their GP surgeries, concerned that they fall into one of the highest risk categories but have not received a letter from NHS England.

Dr Gareth Forbes, Leadgate Surgery, Consett, said: “We are aware that some patients who feel they are at highest risk from Coronavirus may have not received a letter from NHS England notifying them to shield themselves.

“We are in an ever-changing situation and NHS England is currently undertaking a second phase of searches, using patient information from GP practices, to add more people to its list of highest risk and those patients eligible will receive a letter.

“But we must stress that this is an unprecedented time for GP practices and urge people not to telephone their surgery unless they have an actual medical need.”

People can self-register on the website as a clinically extremely vulnerable person if they feel that they are at highest risk.

Those at highest risk, who require shielding, include organ transplant recipients, some with cancer who are undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, some people on immunosuppression drugs, pregnant women with heart disease, people with severe respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD and people with rare diseases such as severe combined immunodeficiency.

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Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer, NHS County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It is essential that telephone and online access to GP practices is available to allow those in greatest need to receive the best, safest care as quickly as possible.

“And it remains vital, especially over this Bank Holiday weekend that everyone continues to help stop the spread of the virus by following Government advice to stay at home, help to save lives and protect our NHS.”

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