Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir has responded to Matt Hancock’s comments made during a discussion about adding MND patients to the “extremely vulnerable persons list” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the latest Health and Social Care Committee, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he is “open” to including those with motor neurone disease on the extremely vulnerable list which advises people to “shield” during lockdown.
Doddie said: “It’s good to hear Matt Hancock is listening to the motor neuron disease community and is open to putting people with MND on this list during the current crisis.
“Thanks to the MPs at Health and Social Care Committee meeting.”
The extremely vulnerable persons list is for patients with a medical condition that makes them clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus and should therefore “shield” themselves, according to the UK Government guidelines.
It says if you have been told by your GP or hospital clinician that you’re clinically extremely vulnerable then you must “shield” which involves not leaving your home and minimising contact with other members of your household.
Chief executive for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation Jill Douglas said: “The government’s response is certainly positive.
“I am aware that Matt Hancock and his team must be under immense pressure dealing with these circumstances but we have been encouraging the government to consider MND patients for the list given some will require this extra help and advice.
“We are wanting to make sure every vulnerable person is getting the support that they need in this time.”
Jill said MND is an unpredictable disease which makes the situation difficult when it comes to deciding who should be shielding as patients are often at different stages of the illness.
“We have heard from some people living with the disease that they don’t know how far on they are with the condition and don’t know whether or not they should be taking these extra precautionary measures.
“MND affects people differently – some progress more severely with it than others – so we just want to make sure those that need the protection are given the advice they need.
“I understand shielding is not something to be taken lightly and Matt Hancock makes that clear by explaining that not being able to leave your house for three months can have a significant impact on a person.
“But at the same time, those living with MND have had the bad news already by finding out they have the disease. Their next concern is just protecting themselves and managing it in the best way possible.”
During the Health and Social Care Committee held on Friday, April 17, Matt Hancock said: “It’s something I have reviewed and my team have worked with MND charities on this to make sure we get it exactly right.
“My initial instinct was to say well of course it should be on the list, but the clinical advice is there are many stages of the motor neurone disease and while those in the later stages are almost always going to need to be shielded because of the impact of the disease on them, that isn’t the case at all stages.
“The thing about shielding is that it is a very significant burden on those that we are advising to shield – not to leave your home for three months is significant.
“People can self-refer to be put on the list, and then it goes to the GP and the GP can make the decision based on the clinical needs of each individual patient.”
He said he has been in discussion with some of the MND campaigners about adding patients to the list.
He added: “I am completely open to putting all people living with MND on the list, but once you look into the reasons why we aren’t, you can see the case from the other side for some of those who live with MND.”
Craig Stockton, MND Scotland’s chief executive, said: “Many people affected by MND are extremely concerned about contracting COVID-19 and are already self-isolating to reduce this risk.
“Those placed on the shielding list will have access to additional support, including assistance with the delivery of food and medications, and we want to ensure people with MND have all the support they need during this uncertain time.”