What is shielding and does it still apply?

Shielding is a measure first introduced by the Government on Sunday 22 March 2020 to protect people classed as 'extremely vulnerable' who are at a very high risk of becoming severely unwell if they were to contract COVID-19. Around 1.8 million people in the UK have been identified as being 'clinically extremely vulnerable'. Anyone identified as such received a letter confirming this or were told directly by their doctor or hospital clinician. Shielding has been implemented and paused at various points during the pandemic in accordance with the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases and risk level for clinically extremely vulnerable individuals. 

Everyone on the Shielded Patient List should have now been offered a COVID-19 vaccine. If you haven't please contact your GP.

As of 1 April 2021, shielding measures have been paused across England and Wales. People previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable are now asked to follow the same COVID-19 measures as the rest of the UK population, but are advised to try to keep their social contacts to a minimum, work from home where possible and maintain extra caution when in contact with others. Such precautions include, meeting outside if possible, making sure indoor spaces are well ventilated, considering whether to wait to have further social contact until you and those you are meeting with have been vaccinated. These precautions are to help keep those that are clinically extremely vulnerable safe as there is a higher risk to them if they were to contract COVID-19.

Further information can be found on the Government website for England and Wales.


Are you 'clinically extremely vulnerable' if you have Huntington's disease?

The NHS made contact with clinically extremely vulnerable people to provide further advice on shielding and how to stay COVID safe at the start of the pandemic. This included many people with Huntington's disease.

As Huntington’s disease is a progressive illness, the risk to someone who carries the gene or has very early symptoms is not increased, unless they have another underlying health condition. However, as the disease progresses, people may have swallowing difficulties, become prone to chest infections, have weakness of the respiratory system; all of which could make them much more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

For further information read our news article - Clarification of COVID-19 ‘high-risk’ Huntington’s texts/letters


Obtaining essential items - food and medication

If you have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, whilst you are not currently advised to avoid visiting the shops, you may still want to shop and place orders online or ask friends and family or a volunteer (NHS Volunteer Responders) to collect and deliver shopping to you. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you can get a priority delivery slot with your supermarket. If you do decide to visit the shops, you may wish to shop at quieter times of the day when there are less people in the shops. 

If you cannot directly collect medicines yourself or cannot arrange for a friend, family member or volunteer to collect your medicines for you, you should contact your pharmacy to inform them you are clinically extremely vulnerable and need medicines delivered and they will arrange this free of charge. 


Care and support

It is important to continue to receive the care and support you need to help you stay safe and well. You should continue to seek support from the NHS or other health providers for any health concerns. There are a range of NHS services available from home. If you need care in person, your local NHS services are well prepared and have measures in place to keep you safe. 

Any carers or visitors who support you can continue to visit. They should follow social distancing guidance where close or personal contact is not required. 

The government has advised that visits to care homes can now take place and every care home resident can also now nominate up to five named visitors who will be able to visit indoors for regular visits at the care home with regular testing, PPE and infection control measures in place. Numbers visiting at any one time may be limited to reduce the risk of infection.



If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you are advised to work from home if you can in line with guidance in place for the rest of the populations of England and Wales. 

Access to work may be able to provide support for any disability related costs related to working from home or in the workplace that fall outside of the reasonable adjustments your employer is required to provide. 

If you cannot work from home, your employer may be able to furlough you under the COVID-19 Job Retention scheme which is open until the end of September. You should speak with your employer about this to see if it is possible. Alternatively, your employer may be able to ensure you can work safely from the workplace with COVID-secure measures in place. 

Acas can provide you with specific advice on your employment rights or workplace issues.


Are you 'clinically extremely vulnerable' and think you have COVID-19 symptoms?

If you are identified as 'clinically extremely vulnerable' and think you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. You should do this as soon as you get symptoms. You may be advised to get a test to confirm if you have COVID-19.

If you are seriously ill and in an emergency, call 999.

The Government advises that you should prepare a hospital bag containing the following items to help the NHS provide you with the best care if you need to go to hospital:

  • your emergency contact
  • a list of the medications you take (including dose and frequency)
  • any information on your planned care appointments
  • things you would need for an overnight stay (for example, pyjamas, toothbrush, medication)
  • your advanced care plan (only if you have one)

If you must interact with NHS staff or emergency services at this time, you can use our 'COVID-19 letter for NHS and emergency services' to explain what Huntington's is, how it might affect you and how COVID-19 can affect someone with the disease.