Last reviewed 17 February 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) have issued revised guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from Covid-19.

This shielding guidance, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19#what-has-changed, applies to clinically extremely vulnerable individuals only.

Others living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to continue to comply with the national lockdown guidance that came into effect on 5 January 2021 (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home).

The DHSC has also announced that new technology has been introduced in England to help clinicians identify, for the first time, a new group of people who may be at high risk from Covid-19.

Up to 1.7 million patients have been identified. Those within this group who are over 70 will have already been invited for vaccination and 820,000 adults between 19 and 69 years will now be prioritised for a vaccination.

The research, commissioned by England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), found that there are several health and personal factors, such as age, ethnicity and body mass index (BMI), as well as certain medical conditions and treatments, which, when combined, could mean someone is at a higher risk from Covid-19.

The University of Oxford turned the research into a risk-prediction model called QCovid®, which has been independently validated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

NHS Digital then used the new model to develop a population risk assessment. This predicts on a population basis whether adults with a combination of risk factors may be at more serious risk from Covid-19, enabling them to be flagged to clinicians for priority access to vaccination.

As soon as an individual is listed as potentially clinically extremely vulnerable by the population risk assessment, they will be sent a letter outlining how they have been identified, that they are being added to the Shielded Patient List as a precautionary measure, and highlighting additional guidance to support them.