Last reviewed 28 April 2020

NHS England has said GP practices should contact all of their patients who are shielding from COVID-19 as a "follow-up" to the NHS letter notifying them to stay at home for 12 weeks.

The advice given by NHS England is that during follow-up conversations with their patients, GPs should discuss what shielding means and any changes to the patient's ongoing care and treatment, including home visiting.

GPs are also advised, as part of the conversation, to make sure their patients have arrangements in place for receiving medications and check that they are aware of the Government's support package.

An NHS England email bulletin sent to practices stated: "Where you have not already done so, we are requesting that all practices make sure that they have contacted all the people on their patient list who are shielding as a follow-up to the letter.

"These conversations should: (a) discuss what shielding means, (b) describe any changes to their ongoing care and treatment, including home visiting wherever this is clinically needed (c) confirm they have an arrangement in place for receiving their medications and (d) check that they are aware of the Government support offer."

In terms of home visits, earlier this month GPs were asked to set up a dedicated home-visiting team for shielded patients with staff who had not been exposed to patients with virus symptoms if possible. The bulletin has added that patients should not be brought into practice premises unless a designated site has been set up, where patients with COVID-19 symptoms are not seen, and stressed that home visits "remain the preferred option where capacity allows" to protect the health of shielded patients.

The bulletin stated: "Going forward, please review any new patients that contact you self-declaring to be clinically extremely vulnerable, adding any that, in your clinical opinion, meet the criteria to the list."

Splenectomy patients should be included in the shielded patient list, despite earlier confusion over their inclusion. NHS Digital will identify patients from 29 April who have had a splenectomy that were mistakenly removed from the list centrally, and will alert practices. GPs should then contact the patients to inform them of the error.

This comes as the deadline for GPs to review the list of patients who have self-identified as requiring shielding was this week extended to 28 April. The majority of the work to establish which patients should be on the shielded list is now "near completion", according to NHS England.