Coronavirus update for shielding patients

New government advice announces that patients who are classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’ and have been shielding for the past 12 weeks will be allowed outside from Monday (1st June) 

Who is classed as extremely vulnerable?

Around 2.5 million people across England were advised to shield at home back in March. This is because they are classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’ meaning they have a very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. People asked to shield include those who are likely to be:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific cancers
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

The full list can be found here.

What’s Changed?

The government is now advising that people who have been shielding are allowed to go outside once per day. This is because the coronavirus disease levels are now much lower than the point at which they were asked to shield, meaning the spread of the disease is slower and the chance of catching coronavirus has reduced. 

Shielding affected not only those who are ‘extremely vulnerable’ but also anyone else who was in the same household. This latest advice means parents, carers and/or family members who live with someone ‘extremely vulnerable’ can also go outside, once per day.

It is important to remember that this does not mean the virus has gone or that the chances of catching it cannot rise again. Which is why, it is still essential that those vulnerable patients and family or carers who live with them, maintain social distancing when going outside and wash or sanitise their hands as soon as they return home.

If you live alone, you are also allowed to spend time outdoors with one person from another household. If you choose to do this you must make sure you keep a 2m distance between you and the other person and this should be the same person each time. 

What does this mean for other aspects of my life?

For now, this once per day outing should be used for exercise and a chance to get out in the fresh air. This does not mean you should return to normal, it is still important that other than going out once per day you are shielding at home and should avoid any gatherings, including those with family and friends. 

We spoke to psychiatric nurse Emma Selby from our partner WYSA who reminds us how the way we choose to think about these changes in restrictions is important. ‘If we think about the changes as only being allowed out for exercise, then we are already implying that the experience is less than it should be. This can have a real effect on the enjoyment we take from the moment and therefore try thinking about the positive aspects of these changes in your new normal’.

There is additional support available from the government with the NHS Volunteer Responders programme which brings essential deliveries such as food to your home. If you are classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’ you should register for support even if you feel you might not need it right now. 

If you are on medication and have an NHS repeat prescription, we can deliver your medication direct to your door, safely. Last month we delivered over one million medicines to homes across the country – saving over 400,000 trips outside. Get your medication without leaving home today, find out more.

Further information on going back to school and returning to the workplace for those living in households where people are shielding is now available. This guidance will be reviewed regularly by the government, to maintain safety for those ‘extremely vulnerable’. For the latest government updates click here.

By Brian Ellwood Published 02/06/2020