Your questions answered and all the latest guidance explained.
Page updated on 17 February 2021 - with details of new people in England being added to shielding list.
We will continue to review the situation on a daily basis and will update this information as the advice continues to change.
The government announced on 16 February that another 1.7 million people in England will be added to the shielding (also known as clinically extremely vulnerable) list and will move into vaccine group 4.
All those newly identified will get a letter from their GP with further information on shielding and protecting yourself. If you haven’t already had the vaccine, the NHS will contact you when it’s your turn to have the vaccine.
To arrange your vaccine, the NHS will phone, text or write to you. They might contact you by phone and by letter. A genuine contact from the NHS won’t ask for payment or for you to send personal documents to prove your identity.
Read our COVID-19 vaccine frequently asked questions.
COVID-19 case numbers are now very high and rising rapidly across the country, driven by the new variant of the virus.
Everyone in England, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, is required to follow the new national lockdown guidance, which has been set out by the government and applies to the entire population. These restrictions:
- Require people to stay at home, except for specific purposes
- Prevent people gathering with those they do not live with, except for specific purposes
- Close certain businesses and venues
- Support children and young people to learn remotely until the February half term, except for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers who may still attend school
The new information below includes additional guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people can be found here, to help protect you from COVID-19. If you are in this group, you will receive a new shielding letter from the NHS or from your GP telling you to shield and keep safe during this time. You may have been advised to shield in the past. This letter can be used as a note to employers explaining that you are advised not to go into work.
Find out more information about what you can and cannot do during lockdown. These new formal shielding measures will apply across the whole of England during the period of national lockdown.
Click here to read the latest clinically extremely vulnerable national FAQs from the UK Government to help with any specific questions you may have.
Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people
This guidance is for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England.
The full guidance can be found online at gov.uk/coronavirus. This is additional guidance specifically for clinically extremely vulnerable people, to help you protect yourself from the virus by following these shielding measures.
This guidance applies to clinically extremely vulnerable individuals only. Others living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not advised to follow this guidance.
The new national lockdown guidance, which applies to everyone, means that you must not leave or be outside of your home and garden, except for limited purposes which are set out in that guidance.
We are advising clinically extremely vulnerable people to stay at home as much as possible.
You can still go outside for exercise or to attend health appointments, but try to keep all contact with others outside of your household to a minimum, and avoid busy areas.
You can still meet with your support bubble, but you cannot meet others you do not live with unless they are part of your support bubble. Outdoors, you can meet one person from another household for exercise. This is part of the wider national regulations that apply to everyone.
Try to stay 2 metres away from other people within your household, especially if they display symptoms of the virus or have been advised to self-isolate.
You are strongly advised to work from home because the risk of exposure to the virus in your area may be 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. Access to Work 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 Support Allowance (ESA). The formal shielding letter you receive will act as evidence for your employer and the Department of 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.
As our knowledge of COVID-19 has grown, we now know that very few children and young people are at highest risk of severe illness due to the virus. Doctors have therefore been reviewing all children and young people who were initially identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to confirm whether they are still thought to be at highest risk.
If you have already discussed this with your child’s doctors and they have confirmed your child is still considered clinically extremely vulnerable, your child should follow this shielding advice.
Under the current national lockdown, children will learn remotely until February half term, except for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers who may still attend school.
Clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people should not attend school or other educational settings, because the risk of exposure to the virus in the community is now very high. Your school or college will make appropriate arrangements for you to be able to continue your education at home.
You are advised to stay at home as much as possible and not to travel unless essential (e.g. to attend health appointments).
You are advised not to go to the shops. Use online shopping if you can, or ask others to collect and deliver shopping for you (friends and family, local volunteers or NHS Volunteer Responders).
You can register to request priority access to supermarket delivery slots, if you do not have someone you can rely on to go shopping for you. If you already have priority access to a supermarket delivery slot, that will continue – you do not need to do anything further. When registering you will be asked for your NHS number. You can find it on any letter the NHS has sent you, or on a prescription.
Registering on the site just gives you priority. It does not mean you’ll definitely get a delivery slot. If you want access to supermarket deliveries, you will also need to set up an account with at least one supermarket and book slots yourself.
If you need other forms of help, including support to register for priority access to supermarket delivery slots, you should contact your local council directly. Find out how your local council can help.
You are strongly advised not to go to a pharmacy.
In the first instance, you should ask if any friends, family or volunteers can collect medicines for you.
If friends and family are not able to collect your medicines for you, and you and/or the pharmacy are unable to arrange for a volunteer, then you will be eligible for free medicines delivery. Please contact your pharmacy to inform them that you are clinically extremely vulnerable and need your medicines delivered, and they will arrange this free of charge.
Accessing care and support
You can still receive informal care at home from people within your support bubble.
You can still receive care at home from professional social care and medical professionals.
We urge you to continue using the NHS and other health providers for your existing health conditions and any new health concerns.
You can access a range of NHS services from home, including ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting your health professional through an online consultation. To find out more visit www.nhs.uk/health-at-home, or download the NHS App. If you have an urgent medical need, call NHS 111 or, for a medical emergency, dial 999.
If you do need to receive care in person, you can. Your local NHS services are well prepared and will put in measures to keep you safe.
It is also really important to look after your mental health. Go to the Every Mind Matters website for advice and practical steps that you can take to support your wellbeing and manage your mental health during this pandemic. If you or someone you care for are experiencing a mental health crisis, we urge you to make contact with a local health professional immediately.
Any carers or visitors who support you with your everyday needs can continue to visit. This also applies for those of a child or young person in your care. They should follow social distancing guidance where close or personal contact is not required.
You should continue to access support from local charities and organisations, as well as NHS Volunteer Responders. As well as helping with shopping and medicines delivery, NHS Volunteer Responders can help with a regular, friendly phone call, and transport to and from health appointments.
Call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm to arrange support or visit NHS Volunteer Responders website.
Registering for additional support
If you need additional help to follow this guidance, your local council may be able to help. If you are advised to shield you will be able to register yourself or someone else to:
- request priority access to a supermarket delivery slot (if you have already got priority access that will continue – you do not need to do anything further)
- tell your council if you need support to follow shielding guidance, especially if you are unable to arrange this yourself or with the help of friends, family or other support networks
- make sure your details, such as your address, are up to date
When registering you will be asked for your NHS number. You can find it on any letter the NHS has sent you, or on a prescription. It is helpful if you register even if you do not have any support needs at this time. You can log in and update your needs if circumstances change at any time.
Should I get the seasonal flu vaccine?
The seasonal flu vaccine won't protect against COVID-19, but it helps to stop flu that's especially common in the autumn and winter. With autumn now firmly upon us, we are also facing the onset of the winter flu season. If you have systemic sclerosis and/or certain other conditions you may be at a higher risk of developing a more serious illness if you catch flu. You may even have received a letter from the NHS informing you that you are eligible for a free annual flu jab. In England this year, if you're on the shielding list, your whole household will be offered the vaccine, as well as yourself.
Shielding guidance for UK nations
The advice to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, previously ‘shielding’ is that those in this group should no longer attend work or spend time outside of home unless for exercise or to attend a medical appointment.
It is recommended clinically extremely vulnerable people follow the Welsh government guidance for people considered 'clinically extremely vulnerable'
Extended households will not be permitted and you will only be able to meet the people you live with or people you are in a support bubble with.
A letter will be sent in the new year to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, previously 'shielding' telling them they should no longer attend work or spend time outside of home unless for exercise or to attend a medical appointment.
All of Wales are currently at alert level 4. Read the latest guidance on what this means for you the Gov Wales website. To stay safe, you should strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures. The newly-updated changes to shielding can be found on the Welsh Government website, here.
Read the latest FAQs from the Welsh Government to help with any specific questions you may have.
If you still need support with food deliveries, contact your local authority. The National Volunteer Prescription Delivery Scheme will be available until the end of September.
Note, shielding may continue if you live in one of the local areas with restrictions or lockdown. If you're advised to shield again, the support you receive may vary slightly depending on where you live. Find out more about the support services for people who are shielding.
From 5 January, mainland Scotland will be in temporary lockdown. Some islands will remain in tier 3.
For the latest information on what you can and cannot do, check the guidance on Gov Scot website
The Scottish government is recommending that you follow the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable to help protect yourself and others. For more details on the risk groups and protection levels, read the Gov Scot website information on the highest risk group.
To stay safe, you should strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures.
The Scottish Government have produced practical resources and guidance on how to keep safe. See below:
- guidance about the conditions for the six main shielding categories
- a workplace risk assessment tool to help you consider your individual risk when returning to work
The Shielding SMS service and the national helpline are available. For more information on support if you've been on a shielding list.
In Scotland, each area of Scotland has a local protection level. There are 5 levels of alert for different areas of the country. They're numbered 0 to 4. Level 4 has the most severe restrictions on social contact. These are known as tiers. What you can and cannot do depends on your tier.
From 5 January, everywhere in level 4 has new ‘stay at home’ guidance, until at least the end of January. This includes stricter rules on socialising and travel.
The key message is for people to stay at home except for essential reasons. Reasons can include caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise and being part of an extended household.
Read the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels to find out:
- which tier you're in
- what you can and cannot do in your tier
- Read the Scottish government social distancing guidelines
You should strictly follow the Scottish Government recommendations for protecting others and keeping safe.
At the moment, these shielding changes are not recommended for people living in residential nursing or care homes.
The Scottish Government have produced practical resources and guidance on how to keep safe. See below:
There is a wide network of support that was available to those shielding will remain. The Shielding SMS service and the national helpline also remain open. Please use the following link for more information on support if you've been on a shielding list.
Note, shielding may continue if you live in one of the local areas with restrictions or lockdown. If you're advised to shield again, the support you receive may vary slightly depending on where you live. Read the shielding information on the Gov Scot website.
Lockdown restrictions are currently in place, for the latest details read the guidance on the NI direct Gov website.
The Northern Ireland Government is recommending you follow the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable, if you are in this risk group. For more information on these groups read the following:
Social distancing should continue to be followed. People who are vulnerable should continue to take precautions. It is still best to stay at home as much as possible.
You’ll need to arrange for food and essential supplies to be delivered and these should be left at your door to minimise contact with the delivery person.
Read the NI Direct guidance on self-isolating.
Note, shielding may continue if you live in one of the local areas with restrictions or lockdown. If you're advised to shield again, the support you receive may vary slightly depending on where you live. Read the latest guidance on the easing of lockdown and what the changes will mean for you.
Has Scleroderma & Raynaud's UK's guidance changed?
The governments from each of the devolved nations have provided guidance for people who are at high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) from coronavirus (COVID-19). In places where there is a very high risk from coronavirus, you may get a letter advising you to follow stricter advice. This is called shielding. You only need to shield if you get a letter. This guidance is based on scientific advice and expertise. SRUK will always seek guidance from our experts to ensure we provide the most up-to-date information for our community. Further information on things you can do to help keep yourself safe can be found here.