Coronavirus: What does shielding mean?

Find out more about shielding, who it applies to, and what to do if you're a shielder.
Old man sitting down

Please note

Guidance for people who are highly clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 is likely to change when England comes out of lock down on 2 December 2020. To check the latest guidance please visit Gov.uk.

Last updated 26 November 2020

What support will I be able to access as a 'clinically extremely vulnerable person'?

You will still be able to get:

  • local volunteer support by contacting your local authority
  • prescriptions, essential items and food you buy delivered by NHS Volunteer Responders
  • priority slots for supermarket deliveries (if you previously registered for free food parcels)

Go to the government's advice on shielding

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Am I still classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable? 

Yes. The categorisation of ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ will remain in place and people in this group should continue to follow their specific guidance specific, available here

You should have been written to about these changes. If you haven’t been contacted, please contact your GP. 

Will I be told to shield again? 

There will not be national advice to shield but people in exceptionally high-risk areas may still be advised to adopt formal shielding in the future. This includes:

  • advise to stay at home, not go to work or school
  • limit social interactions to their own household and support bubble.

If shielding advice is reintroduced in their area, people who are shielding will be eligible for a support package. This includes:

  • food access support
  • medicine deliveries
  • any additional care or support required

People who are shielding may also be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance.

Shielding guidance has been and continues to be advisory. 

Why is the advice changing? 

As the rate of infection has increased, the restrictions that have been introduced are designed to protect people while enabling them to carry on with their lives.

Are you concerned about the changes in guidance? Talk to your local Healthwatch. 

Your local Healthwatch can help you to understand the guidance and what it means for you and the support you receive. Contact your nearest one online, by social media, or by phone.  

Find your local Healthwatch

Frequently asked questions

The following Q&A, based on information provided by the Government, aims to help you get some of the answers you need, to know about what shielding means in practice.

What does ‘shielding’ mean? 

Shielding is the word used to describe how to protect those at highest risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. You can shield yourself following the Government guidance, and shield others by minimising all interaction between yourself and those who are most at risk.

Will I be asked to shield again?

You could be advised to shield again if the situation changes and there is an increase in the transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

Your name will be kept securely on the shielded patient list by NHS Digital and you will be written to if the advice changes. Any national changes will be reflected in this guidance.

How do I get food and medication if I need to shield? 

Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. 

NHS Volunteer Responders will offer support until at least December 2020 with:

  • collecting shopping, medication (if your friends and family cannot collect them for you) or other essential supplies
  • a regular, friendly phone call, either with someone else who has previously been advised to shield or with different volunteers
  • transport to medical appointments

Call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm to arrange support or visit the NHS Volunteer Responders website. Speak to your health care professional to arrange transport support.

I haven’t been contacted but I think I am in the high-risk group – what should I do?

If you have not received a letter or been contacted by your GP or hospital consultant, but feel you are within the high-risk category, you should contact your GP practice or hospital team. If you are unsure, check the list on the Gov.uk website to see if you are in the most at risk/ extremely vulnerable group. 

My main carer is unwell – what do I do?

Speak to your carers about back-up plans for your care in case your main carer is unwell or needs to self-isolate.

You should have an alternative list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell. You can also contact your local council, or local Healthwatch, for advice on how to access care.

I'm worried that shielding is going to affect my mental health - what do I do?

Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post or online. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling if you want to.

Remember, it is okay to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you might want to try an NHS recommended helpline.

You can refer yourself to NHS Volunteer Responders for a phone call from an NHS Volunteer, by calling 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm). We know that many people in the shielding group will already have good support networks among family, friends and neighbours, but if you don’t, the volunteers can help with a range of support, from transport to and from hospital appointments to ‘check in and chat’ – a simple phone call from a volunteer to check that you are doing ok.

If you have trouble with the referral process, contact your local Healthwatch.

We've also put together some advice on how to look after your mental health during this time. 

Read more

Got another question?

To find more detailed answers to these and other questions, read the Government guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. Or contact your local Healthwatch.

Find out more

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We all appreciate the hard work of health and care staff during the pandemic. Healthcare services are now working to bounce back from COVID-19 - but they need our help. 

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