Hitchin councillor reveals ‘upsetting’ COVID-19 letters sent to vulnerable residents

Judi Billing is the leader of the Labour group on Herts County Council. Picture: Supplied

Judi Billing is the leader of the Labour group on Herts County Council. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

A leading councillor has raised concerns at the way vulnerable residents are being contacted by health officials during the outbreak of COVID-19.

Cllr Judi Billing says she has been sent repeated texts reminding her that she is vulnerable to COVID-19, and has often been asked alarming questions.

Cllr Billing shared her “upsetting” experiences at a meeting of the county council last Friday, and questioned the impact this would have had on a vulnerable resident who may not be so well supported.

Cllr Billing said she had been sent a letter asking whether she would want to be admitted to hospital if she contracted the disease, and was also asked to indicate whether she would want invasive “and possibly unpleasant” treatments if they would increase her survival chances.

Cllr Billing said she felt there was “a quite upsetting level of pressure” to fill in documents, for example agreeing to “do not resuscitate” in the event of becoming seriously ill. In one phone call, she was even asked by her GP if she has made a will or set up a lasting power of attorney.

Cllr Billing, who is leader of the Labour group on the county council, said: “I am a well supported member of many communities and a large and supportive family, and I have found that very upsetting.

“Heaven knows what that will be doing to frail, elderly, isolated people if they get such a call from their GP and get the forms to fill in that I was.”

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In response to Cllr Billing’s concerns, director of adult care services Iain MacBeath said the county council is now working with the NHS to clarify the guidance. Following the meeting, he agreed it was appropriate for questions such as “do not resuscitate” to be considered on forms.

A spokeswoman for East and North Hertfordshire CCG said she is “sorry” that Cllr Billing had been upset by the communications, and would be happy to look into her concerns in more detail.

She added: “The NHS is working hard to protect people from COVID-19. By communicating with the people who are most at risk, the government and GP practices are trying to ensure that advice and offers of support are getting through.

“This is particularly important if they live alone. Many people of all ages have strong feelings about the way that they wish to be cared for if they are very ill.”