A woman living with autoimmune problems says she is being denied essential treatments despite a government pledge to protect vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Claire Leslie, 45, from Broughty Ferry, has pernicious anaemia, a condition affecting around one in 1,000 people which restricts her ability to absorb vitamin B12 through the stomach.
She typically receives a prescribed injection of B12 once a month at Broughty Ferry Health Centre to stave off a deficiency.
However, Claire, who also has other autoimmune issues, was told on Monday that NHS Tayside had told surgeries to delay procedures by as much as a year.
The Tele understands B12 injections should be delayed by no more than 24 weeks.
And a request for the injection to be posted to her house so she could administer it herself was refused without explanation.
The former council worker is worried her health will be compromised if she isn’t able to get the treatment she needs – contrary to a letter she, alongside 1.5 million other ‘shielded patients’, received from the Scottish Government.
A B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and psychological issues which can worsen or become permanent if left untreated.
Claire said: “I don’t think even my doctor knows why he’s been told to stop the injections. I didn’t get a reason.
“I appreciate the priority is treating people with coronavirus but this is an important treatment for me. I’m concerned that my monthly injections are moving to an annual basis.
“Leaving this untreated leaves me open to the risk of developing infections. We’re being told to protect ourselves but not getting these is going to lower my immune system when it’s already low. I’m not getting the care I need.”
The Pernicious Anaemia Society has written to the Scottish Government and other UK health chiefs to express its concerns.
Martyn Hooper, chairman, said: “We have pointed out that injections of B12 for patients with pernicious anaemia are not just a supplement but are needed to keep patients alive.”
The Scottish Government says health boards need to prioritise looking after shielded patients like Claire and has issued new guidance on how to support at-risk individuals with access to medicine and services.
A spokeswoman said: “GPs are best placed to advise people about changes to the frequency of their B12 injections because of local arrangements to respond to Covid-19.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with Evening Telegraph newsletter
“These are clinical decisions and people should discuss any concerns directly with their GP.
“We are asking people at the highest clinical risk to self-isolate for a long period, and our local services must prioritise them.”
NHS Tayside, however, said an “operational decision” was taken to delay B12 injections as part of its coronavirus response.
While it could not comment on individual cases, a spokesman said: “As part of our Covid-19 response we have been looking at the services being delivered by our community nurses to ensure we are making best use of our nursing staff and can continue to provide care for our most vulnerable patients.
“Following discussion with the Medicines Advisory Group, an operational decision was taken to suspend the delivery by community nurses of B12 injections for some patients.
“We would wish to reassure these patients that they will come to no harm as a single injection of vitamin B12 can last up to 10 months.
“For some patients with certain specific medical requirements and who have no stores of vitamin B12, they will still continue to receive their emergency replacement schedule of injections.
“There is no known association with B12 deficiency and susceptibility to Covid-19.”
In these troubled times, when many people are struggling to get out for their paper, we are pledging to help readers by providing a FREE digital edition of the Evening Telegraph for three months. Click below to register ⬇️