New research commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer has recently enabled the Government to identify people who may be at increased risk of becoming seriously unwell from coronavirus. This is because of a combination of their individual characteristics and their underlying health conditions. Those who have been identified as being 'higher risk' will be receiving a letter informing them to shield until at least the 31st of March 2021.
As soon as an individual is flagged as potentially clinically extremely vulnerable by NHS Digital’s COVID-19 population risk assessment, they will be sent a letter outlining how they have been identified, that they are being added to the Shielded Patient List as a precautionary measure, and highlighting additional guidance to support them. The government will also be issuing letters by email for those who have registered an email address with their GP practice.
For most, they will be have been identified as high risk because they have a combination of underlying health conditions or are undergoing specialist treatment and they may be able to discuss this when they get their vaccination.
As a result of their addition to the high-risk group, patients will receive a letter inviting them for vaccination as soon as possible.
Patients can speak to their GP or specialist clinician if they have questions as to why they have been added to the Shielded Patient List, or if they feel they should no longer be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable. GPs and specialist clinicians will be able to make their own assessment of an individual based on their clinical knowledge and are able to add and remove individuals from the Shielded Patient List.
For now, there will be no changes to the existing list of medical conditions used to identify individuals who may be clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. This list is agreed by the 4 UK Chief Medical Officers on the basis of the latest available evidence.
Frequently asked Questions
Why have I been identified as someone who may now be at high risk
The Government is always learning more about coronavirus and the things that might contribute to people becoming seriously ill. They asked a team of experts to look at data from the first wave of the pandemic, to get a better understanding of the things that may mean someone is at a high risk of catching and becoming seriously unwell with coronavirus.
By putting this new evidence into a risk model with information the NHS already holds, you have been identified as someone who may be at high risk. This is likely to be because you have a combination of underlying risk factors or health issues which, when combined, indicates high risk.
An extra cautious approach has been taken, so there is a chance that your risk is lower than estimated. Your GP will be made aware that you have been identified in this way.
A document called the Shielded Patient List Transparency Notice provides more information about the risk model used to identify that you may be at high risk, and the factors it took into account. It also explains how the NHS uses your personal information to provide you with support. You can read this here: https://digital.nhs.uk/coronavirus/shielded-patient-list/shielded-patient-list-transparency-notice
What is the difference between those originally deemed clinically extremely vulnerable and those who have now been added to that list?
The existing list of medical conditions used to identify individuals who may be clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 was agreed by the four UK Chief Medical Officers on the basis of the latest available evidence. As we had very little data about COVID-19 risk factors at the time, this list was based on our understanding of vulnerability to other respiratory viruses such as flu. Patients being added to the SPL using the COVID-19 Population Risk Assessment, powered by QCovid®, are those who may be at increased risk of becoming seriously unwell from coronavirus because of a combination of their individual characteristics and their underlying health conditions based on this new research. This includes characteristics like someone’s age, ethnicity, BMI and certain medical conditions. NHS Digital’s website will provide a list of the risk factors that the QCovid® model uses, in an approximate order of their impact on coronavirus outcomes.
What if I don’t want to be on the list?
GPs have the option to add or remove patients from the Shielded Patients List, based on their clinical judgement. If you do not wish to be on the list, please contact and discuss the implications of this with your GP.
When will I get my Vaccination and will I have to shield once I have had it?
Additions to the Shielded Patients List are being made as quickly as possible as we want to provide vaccination as quickly as we can.
After you have had your vaccination, it is still advised that you should shield up until the 31st of March.
What does Shielding mean, and how long will it last?
The Clinically extremely vulnerable, and the new additions to the Shielded Patient List, are advised to stay at home as much as possible, and only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential until the 31st of March. You can still meet with your support bubble (if you are eligible for one), however, you should not meet with those outside of your support bubble.
Can I still go to work?
You are strongly advised to work from home because the risk of exposure to the virus in your area may currently be higher. If you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work. You may want to speak to your employer about taking on an alternative role or change your working patterns temporarily to enable you to work from home where possible. If you need support to work at home you can apply for Access to Work – this will provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.
If you cannot make alternative arrangements, your employer may be able to furlough you under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of April 2021. You should have a conversation with your employer about whether this is possible.
As you are being advised not to attend work, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The formal shielding letter you receive will act as evidence for your employer and the Department for Work and Pensions that you are advised to shield and may be eligible for SSP or ESA. Members of the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home, in line with the wider rules set out in the national lockdown guidance.
Support Available for those who have been added to the SPL
We know that this is a very difficult time, especially for people who are at higher risk. We recommend that you plan the support you may need, so that you can follow the advice to stay at home as much as possible. It will help if you can keep in touch with friends and family via phone or video calls. Although you are advised not to go to shops and pharmacies, if you can go outside for fresh air and exercise safely you are encouraged to do so.
If you do need additional support, there is still lots on offer to help you with the essentials, or a listening ear.
Register with the National Shielding Support Service
The National Shielding Support Service can be accessed online to register for a priority supermarket delivery slot (if you don’t already have access to one) and/or to register support needs if shielding is re-introduced in the future. www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support
Wirral InfoBank is a directory of local care and support services, community resources, activities, and information. Visit www.wirralinfobank.co.uk for help with managing your money, accessing social supermarkets or welfare support, religious services, and much more.
Please do contact Wirral Council’s Coronavirus Helpline on 0151 666 5050 if you need to discuss any aspect of your support.
You can get help accessing the things you need
An NHS Volunteer Responder could help you to access food, medicines, or essentials. You can register for this service by calling 0808 196 3646. They can also help with other practical, emotional, and social support.
The NHS is open
GP practices remain open and accessible. Please continue attending your routine appointments and accessing NHS services for the care and treatment you need.
Don’t forget your free flu jab
If you haven’t already, and are eligible, please get your free flu jab. You can access this via your GP surgery.
Social Prescribing Link Workers
Available to provide practical, emotional, and social support via your GP surgery. Please contact your surgery and ask to speak to your Link Worker.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
We understand that everybody has mental health, and many people at some point in their lives may need support to stay emotionally and psychologically well. In fact, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year. NHS Wirral CCG are committed to ensuring that the people of Wirral have the support they need for their mental health, whether that be information and signposting, counselling or perhaps more specialist mental health services.
Click here for information and support