Vulnerable people in Scotland, including patients on kidney dialysis, are not getting access to food deliveries and other essential supplies, it has been claimed.
A letter from Sainbury’s supermarket has confirmed stores are still waiting for the Scottish Government to share its list of the patients most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
And charities have expressed concern that kidney dialysis patients have not been included in the “shielding” group of most vulnerable people who are supposed to receive help with food deliveries.
“People who are vulnerable are not getting the help they need to access essential supplies like food,” said Fiona Loud, Policy Director of Kidney Care UK.
In Scotland there are 5,116 people with either a kidney transplant or on dialysis to remove waste products from the body when the organs aren’t working.
Those with a kidney transplant are on the list of most vulnerable patients because they have a suppressed immune system. However the 2,200 people on dialysis in Scotland are not, despite also being susceptible to infection.
In Scotland we need more clarity so that all kidney patients can get the help they need during this difficult and anxious time.”
Fiona Loud of Kidney Care UK
Ms Loud said many kidney patients had still not received their letters confirming they are on the shielding list and called for dialysis patients to be put into that category.
“People on dialysis are not specifically named as needing shielding. In England some new advice was developed by the Renal Association to help people on dialysis to sign up for help. It is not perfect but is helpful. In Scotland we need more clarity so that all kidney patients can get the help they need during this difficult and anxious time,” Ms Loud said.
Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “I have raised this matter with Jeane Freeman, the Health Secretary. It is vitally important that we get this sorted as soon as possible. We are now three weeks into asking people to shield and it would seem some of our most vulnerable people are not on the Scottish list.”
Sainsbury’s has yet to get details of vulnerable people
Concerns that supermarkets do not yet have enough information to serve the most vulnerable were raised after Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe wrote to customers.
Mr Coupe’s letter said: “At the end of last week we received the government database, which includes details of all the people in England who have registered with the government to say that they are vulnerable and need help getting a food shop. We are waiting for the databases for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and will contact vulnerable customers in those areas as soon as we are able.”
The Scottish Government has already written to around 120,000 “shielded individuals” setting out the self-isolation measures they should take to protect their own health.
But the Tories have argued the list should be given to supermarkets to allow them to target the most vulnerable for deliveries.
Tory economy spokesman Maurice Golden said: “This is confirmation from one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains that the SNP government still hasn’t acted. The list exists, and indeed these people have already been contacted by the Scottish Government about the coronavirus.
“We now need to get those details to supermarkets so they can start prioritising delivery slots. As it stands, it’s far too difficult for vulnerable people to access this service.”
Mr Golden added: “That’s either forcing them to go without, or making them risk their own health by venturing out to the stores themselves.”
At her coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said she recognised the “obligation” to help the most vulnerable. She said the shielded lists had been drawn up by the four nations’ chief medical officers.
“All of those people have letters that give them details of a text messaging service to register with if they need deliveries of food or medicine and I know the first deliveries have already gone out,” the first minister said.
Ms Sturgeon said there was a bigger group of vulnerable people not in the shielded category who also needed help with deliveries. She said work had been done in the last few days to put in place a system to help them and details would be released shortly.