Department of Health and Social Care
Shielding programme ends for most vulnerable
The government has agreed to end the requirement for shielding guidance for people previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable.
People previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable will not be advised to shield again, as the government agrees to end the requirement for centralised guidance for these groups following expert clinical advice. The closure of the shielding programme follows a pause to shielding guidance in place since 1 April 2021.
This decision is based on there being far more information available on the virus and what makes individuals more or less vulnerable, the success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme and the emergence of proven treatments, such as dexamethasone and tocilizumab, to support improved outcomes in clinical care pathways.
Shielding was introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the few interventions available to support those who were considered to be most at risk of serious illness from the virus.
While this was the right decision at the time to protect the most vulnerable during the initial waves of the virus when little was known about the virus and risk characteristics, shielding advice was extremely restrictive and for some, had a significant impact on people’s lives and their mental and physical wellbeing.
Since 19 July, the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people has been to follow the same advice as the rest of the population, with the suggestion of additional precautions people may wish to take. Research and evaluation for some individual clinical groups will continue.
This will move the country towards the situation pre-COVID-19, where people managed their own conditions with their health professionals, who know the needs of their individual patients best.
For some who may have a reduced immune response – for example those who are immunocompromised or have particular cancers such as blood (haematological) malignancies – and who are at risk from infectious diseases more generally, a return to routine individual advice from relevant specialists is now recommended.
Those previously on the Shielded Patient List will receive a letter from the government in the coming days to inform them of this decision.
The government will continue to assess the situation and the risks posed by COVID-19 and, based on clinical advice, will respond accordingly to keep the most vulnerable safe. Individuals should consider advice from their health professional on whether additional precautions are right for them.
People aged over 16 with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 will also be prioritised for booster vaccinations, as well as adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals. This will ensure the protection the vaccines provide will be maintained over the winter months.
Vaccinations as part of a booster programme will begin from next week and the NHS will contact people directly to let them know when it is their turn.
Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency Jenny Harries said:
Since the start of the pandemic, the NHS has administered millions of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, which is why those who were originally considered clinically extremely vulnerable have, since step 4 (19 July), been advised to follow the same guidance as everyone else.
Because of this progress, the government does not expect to have to issue shielding advice to this large group again, but will continue to assess the risks to the most vulnerable from COVID-19.
Those patients who are at risk from infectious diseases more generally – for example patients with blood cancers – and who can also remain less protected after other vaccinations, may wish to discuss this with their specialist as part of their routine care.
I would urge everyone else to follow the guidance and continue with the precautions that make you feel safe.
Latest News from
Department of Health and Social Care
Multi-million pound fund to boost adult social care workforce22/10/2021 13:10:00
Adult social care will benefit from £162.5 million of new funding to help workforce retention and recruitment.
UK government secures groundbreaking COVID-19 antivirals21/10/2021 12:10:00
The new antivirals could be rolled out through a clinical study from winter.
Lateral flow tests to be introduced for vaccinated international arrivals15/10/2021 11:10:00
From 24 October fully vaccinated passengers and most under 18s arriving in England from countries not on the red list can take a cheaper lateral flow test, on or before Day 2 of their arrival into the UK. These can be booked from 22 October.
Plan set out to improve access for NHS patients and support GPs14/10/2021 14:25:00
New blueprint will improve access and provide additional funding to increase the proportion of face to face appointments.
UK completes over one million SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequences12/10/2021 10:10:10
The UK has now uploaded over one million genome sequences to the international GISAID database, accounting for nearly a quarter of all sequences published globally to date.
Blood donation to be made more inclusive11/10/2021 16:10:10
A question on sexual activity of partners in areas where HIV is widespread will be removed from the donor safety check form.
New film launched urging public to get flu and COVID-19 vaccines11/10/2021 10:10:10
New campaign encourages those eligible to get free flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster vaccine ahead of winter.
Clinical trialists to be offered 'top-up' vaccine doses08/10/2021 15:38:00
Vaccine clinical trial participants to be offered additional approved vaccines for international travel from next week.