It’s one rule for us and another for the immunocompromised

Llike Downing Street parties, it seems to be a foam, rinse, repeat affair when it comes to immunocompromised people getting the treatments they need to ward off the vicious little package of protein, fat and RNA that causes Covid-19.

Last month, all NHS trusts, foundation medical directors and clinical care group medical directors received communication about reaching out to their patients about the new Covid treatments now available to them. This should resulted in said patients receiving letters informing them of these treatments and describing how they should go about if they had a bad contact with the virus.

The plan was to issue them with PCR tests to keep at home. They could use them as soon as Covid symptoms appear and, if the test comes back positive, they would receive an evaluation for treatment with the available antivirals or monoclonal antibodies.

And behold, the Lord said to leave there by the light. And there was light! Because you can categorize that as “that’s a damn good idea.” How often does this happen in Britain today? Of course, you can see the problem. What Is it that very often in Britain today is that good ideas that find traction are marred by poor execution, communication or bureaucracy.

Clare Jacklin, CEO of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, told me that while some people get the letters, kit, and everything else they need with no problem, others definitely don’t. My wife is among them.

Blood Cancer UK said much the same. It is launching a survey of its members to find out the extent of the problem, after hearing repeated cases of people not receiving letters or tests. A similar exercise shed light on the issues immunocompromised people used to – and in some cases still do – face getting the shots they need.

To get the same coverage as you or me with two main injections and a booster, they need three – plus a fourth that boosts immunity. Such an exercise could highlight the extent of the problem among its clientele. Anecdotally, there seems to be a problem with postcodes. There may also be a problem with some specific conditions that are not on the list, so to speak.

The survey should shed some light on blood cancers. Other exercises of this type would be necessary for other conditions. My wife’s experience with both issues – the fourth vaccine and the PCR test – would indicate that the problem comes down to parts of the NHS not communicating effectively with other parts, and at the top not always communicating effectively with ground level.

A call to the hospital she is under was forwarded to the GP, was referred to hospital. Another call to the 119 service – specifically set up to answer questions or provide help with coronavirus vaccinations, testing, NHS Covid Pass etc. – gave no help. The person on the other end of the line does not seem to have been informed of any of this.

I wonder if the service should invest in internal comms? Maybe we should also give them weight. It should be one for the Minister of Vaccines. Previous incumbent Nadhim Zahawi was thrust into the cabinet, perhaps rightly so given the relative success of the UK scheme.

I’ve heard good things about him from people in the know, although it has to be said that crossing the very low bar of not being completely shitty will do that for you in the current administration.

Whether that applies to her replacement, Maggie Throup, remains to be seen. When I contacted the Department of Health and Social Care I was transferred to NHS England. In other words, I went through the same kind of runaway that my wife – and other immunocompromised patients – went through. It’s just a lot more serious for them.

For the record, NHS England said: ‘Thousands of patients most at risk with Covid-19 have now been treated with these life-saving drugs through this service, which is only a few weeks old, and local doctors s ensure that patients are treated where they could benefit from treatment.

I suspect my wife will eventually settle her case. She possesses the kind of quiet relentlessness one needs to trump the British bureaucratic snafus. But this is not the case for everyone. Too many people are not used to this kind of fight, which, really, nobody should have to fight. Dealing with a serious medical condition is stressful enough.

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Jacklin describes the situation as “frightening”. “I fear that people will contact various professionals and then hear ‘I don’t know’. What kind of confidence does it build to say they’re in good hands? »

She urges those in this position to speak to the patient group affected by their condition, if they find themselves wrapped up in NHS red tape by being excluded from the list. I would support that. The NHS, GPs, trusts and clinics are all under terrible pressure. Jacklin doesn’t want to be seen throwing bricks at them and neither do I.

But at the same time, it would be unacceptable for people in my wife’s position to deprive themselves of the potentially life-saving medications they might need.

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