To: Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Health and Social Care Select Committee
Dear Mr Hunt,
I am writing to ask your Committee to investigate one very specific aspect of the way in which the Corona-19 outbreak is being managed: the protection of the most vulnerable to the disease.
I have to declare an interest as I am one of the 1.9m who have, apparently, been designated as being in the most “at risk” group.
But I am writing primarily as an expert with experience in the scientific, engineering and social science fields – mostly the latter and particularly the study of government and public agencies, including health for over three decades.
My starting point is personal: today (25th April 2020) I received a letter from my GP, dated 23 April, telling me that I am officially part of the most “at risk” group, with 3 pages of advice about what to do. It included advice that I should isolate myself for the next 12 weeks.
(This is the first official confirmation of something I have known since the start of the epidemic. Indeed, I decided to isolate myself at the start of March because of my health problems.)
I thought perhaps I was an unlucky oversight in the rush to get arrangements in place to protect the most vulnerable?
But it turns out this is not so. Enquiries amongst family, friends and via my 13k twitter followers indicate this is a widespread problem.
- Many people report not having received a communication until the past week or so, and some not at all even though they clearly fit the criteria.
- The earliest reports of communications are from about 5 weeks ago.
- All have advised 12 weeks isolation, but starting at very different times. Some have been back-dated to as much as 4 weeks before the letters were received. Others, like myself, from the date of receipt.
- Communications have come from different official sources – GPs, Regional Health Boards (Scotland), PHE, etc – and in different forms – emails, letters, texts, etc. In one case a letter purported to be from their GP, but the GP had no knowledge of it and asked to be sent a copy.
There are many questions that need clarifying about this whole process.
- What criteria are used to identify who is, and who is not, amongst the “at high risk” group? From my multiple sources this seems to be very unclear. And who is actually making these decisions?
- Why has it taken so long to inform, officially and directly, at risk individuals when this delay could have cost lives? Again, who was actually responsible for informing them?
- What is the logic behind the standard 12 week isolation period when people have received these communications so far apart? As of today some people may be almost half way through their 12 weeks, whilst others like myself are only just supposed to be starting. I can see no rationale for such advice, nor has any been given as far as I can see?
- How are this group being supported when in 12 week isolation? My own letter contains some helpful advice but is far from comprehensive – giving only vague advice on how to obtain food, other than via friends or family, for example.
I hope your Committee will include some of these questions in your on-going scrutiny of how Government and public agencies are managing the current crisis.
I am happy to provide further evidence if needed.
Prof Colin Talbot
University of Manchester
Professor of Government (Emeritus)
University of Cambridge
Research Associate Centre for Business Research