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 all relevant COVID-19 vaccines. If you haven't please contact your GP.

As of 1 April 2021, shielding measures were paused across England and Wales. People previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable are now asked to follow the same measures as the rest of the UK population, but are advised to try to maintain extra caution when in contact with others to help keep them safe as there is a higher risk to them if they were to contract COVID-19.

Precautionary measures you can take include:

  • meeting outside if possible
  • making sure areas are well ventilated if you meet inside; open windows and doors or take other action to let in plenty of fresh air
  • considering whether you and those you are meeting have been vaccinated 
  • washing your hands regularly and avoid touching your face
  • considering continuing to practice social distancing and / or wearing a face mask if that feels right for you
  • asking friends and family to take a lateral flow test before visiting you
  • asking home visitors to wear face coverings
  • visiting shops / pharmacy at a quieter time of day
  • Making use of NHS Volunteer Responders services if you are unable to collect shopping / prescriptions yourself or arrange for a family member or friend to do so on your behalf

It is important that you continue to receive the care and support you need to help you stay safe and well. Providers of social care and medical services are working hard to ensure services remain open and as safe as possible. You should continue to seek support for your existing health conditions. You can also access a range of NHS services from home, including ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting your health professional through an online consultation.

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 


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.