The Scottish Government has apologised after more than 3,000 people in the north-east were sent letters in error telling them to shield due to Covid-19.
The Scottish Government had advised that those in this category, who will have been advised via letter, should not leave their homes and minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household.
However, it has apologised for causing distress after 3,300 people in the north-east were sent letters by mistake telling them to shield.
The government said NHS Grampian had applied search criteria too widely, which caused the mistake, and a new letter on behalf of the Chief Medical Officer had been sent out.
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A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “When NHS Grampian searched their records to identify those who should shield, they applied search criteria which were too wide.
“This resulted in around 3,300 people living in the Grampian region being incorrectly advised that they were at highest clinical risk from Covid-19.
“When the error came to light, NHS Grampian searched its records again to make sure that these people were not at highest risk.
“We deeply regret the distress caused by this mistake. A letter of apology has been sent on behalf of the Chief Medical Officer to the people affected and we have ensured that services being provided are maintained until patients can make alternative arrangements.”
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said that advice given to members of the public should be clear in order to avoid confusion, but that it was better to be over cautious.
He said: “It’s better to be over cautious than under cautious, but obviously it’s really important to be clear what the position is and to know what people should do to keep them safe.
“I’m glad that this has been a quick response and an apology for the mistake that was made.
“Hopefully the people affected will be able to move on, it’s important for them to be able to get on with their lives again.”
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, who is currently shielding himself, said: “This is a regrettable mistake that I know for many will be distressing.
“However, we cannot use this as a reason to do less social distancing. Everyone should still take care, stay fit and continue to stay home if you can.”
Scottish Conservatives north-east MSP Liam Kerr said: “I don’t think this very unfortunate mistake should be laid at NHS Grampian’s door.
“From the beginning, the SNP have mishandled giving straightforward instructions.
“Nicola Sturgeon initially said there were 200,000 Scots who needed to shield, then 120,000, then she had another three goes at it.
“Thousands of people in the north-east will have been living in fear, at a time when they will have needed it least.”
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “The process of identification of people for shielding from NHS records has been complicated.
“We worked very hard to resolve these issues as soon as they were flagged up and apologise profusely to any patients who may have been affected by this error.”