Significant concerns have been raised about the NHS’s apparent failure to share data with local government authorities during the Covid-19 outbreak.
A letter from the chief executive of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council and accountable officer at Tameside and Glossip CCG highlighted the “increasingly exasperating” failure to share information with councils.
Steven Pleasant raises three concerns in the letter, seen by the Local Government Chronicle, addressed to Tony Reeve, Liverpool City Council’s chief executive who is leading the north-west emergency response. It was intended for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s shielding sounding board.
Under rules set out by the Cabinet Office, councils are supposed to be given information for two groups of patients: those who have requested local authority support and those who are “known to their local authority in relation to social care services they receive or who are otherwise known by their local authority to be vulnerable”.
Councils are struggling to access lists of “shielded” patients – those who have underlying medical conditions that require them to be shielded from coronavirus, the letter states. Pleasant said this information is being withheld from local authorities, LGC reports.
“I am sure that you will appreciate that this is counterproductive and frustrating given that local authorities are leading and co-ordinating the response to the most vulnerable in communities,” he wrote, adding that the situation in Tameside was “confusing and incoherent”.
He also suggests information on patients who need additional support, such as food parcels and welfare assistance, is not being passed to councils, which “significantly increases” the risk of error.
Lastly, he called for the creation of a system that would allow councils to pass information on individuals back to the government where appropriate.
The letter is one of several indications from senior people in local government on how the agreed system for sharing information is operating, according to the LGC.
Blackburn with Darwen BC’s director of public health Dominic Harrison has Tweeted his concerns that local authorities were unable to access postcode information from NHS 111 symptomatic calls, positive tests or hospital Covid-19 admission.
He said access to this information could help find local “micro-outbreak hotspots” but that the “system is struggling” to share this data.
A government spokesperson said: “The Government Digital Service has shared data from the NHS Shielded Patient List with local authorities to enable them to identify and make contact with vulnerable people in their area to offer them support. If a person’s circumstances change they should re-register through the gov.uk website as no longer needing a food delivery.
“Alternatively they can refuse a box when a delivery is attempted, and the package will be re-delivered to someone else in need.”
Have you struggled to access NHS data on shielded patients? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org