THOUSANDS of vulnerable residents were not told to shield until months after lockdown began last year, figures reveal.

NHS figures show 3,405 people in Braintree were on the shielding list by April 12 last year.

However local doctors were then asked to review the data, increasing the patient count to 6,500 by May 15, an increase of 91 per cent.

The national shielding list increased significantly again in February this year, when scientists developed a new tool to assess whether someone is at risk of severe disease or death.

The latest update shows the number on the shielding list in Braintree has risen to 9,465 as of April 14 – 6,060 more than a year previously.

A group of MPs said the Government's lack of planning created a "postcode lottery" across the country.

These reviews led shielding numbers to increase by 73 per cent across the country.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the "unacceptable" level of variation was evidence of a postcode lottery, as the list grew from 1.3 million to 2.2 million nationally.

Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said this was caused by "poor data" and a lack of "joined-up policy systems".

She said: “The shielding response in the Covid pandemic has particularly exposed the high human cost of the lack of planning for shielding in pandemic-planning scenarios.

“People were instructed to isolate, to protect themselves and others – but the cost of this protection was reduced access to living essentials like food, and an untold toll on mental health and wellbeing.”

The Government said it delivered an urgent national scheme to contact people and provide them with vital food and medicine so they could shield – but many chose not to take up the offer.

A spokesperson added: “These report findings are disappointing and misjudged.

“We have learned more about the virus and adapted our approach, which has enabled us to protect those most vulnerable by providing them with shielding guidance and prioritising them for vaccination.”