Coronavirus: What does shielding mean?

The Government is contacting the NHS patients most vulnerable to COVID-19 with guidance and information on ‘shielding’. Here's some more information to help you understand what shielding means in practice.
man coronavirus shielded cambridgeshire help

Those contacted are strongly advised to rigorously follow the guidance, which includes staying at home at all times.  

The GPs and hospital clinicians looking after people in these groups have been asked to review their patient lists and to add in anyone else who they think should be considered at highest clinical risk and advised to shield.  

If you think that you should have a letter, contact your GP or specialist.

The following Q&A, based on information provided by the Government, aims to help you get some of the answers you need, to know about what shielding means in practice.

What does ‘shielding’ mean? 

Shielding is the word used to describe how to protect those at highest risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. You can shield yourself following the Government guidance, and shield others by minimising all interaction between yourself and those who are most at risk.

How do I shield myself?

If you think you have a condition which makes you extremely vulnerable or have received a letter from NHS England, you are strongly advised to shield yourself, to reduce the chance of getting coronavirus (COVID-19). This means following the measures below:

  1. Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  2. Do not leave your house, except from your private spaces e.g. garden.
  3. Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
  4. Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
  5. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  6. Do use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

How long do I shield myself for?

The Government is currently advising people to shield until the end of June and is regularly monitoring this position.

How do I get food and medication if I'm shielding? 

Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. The Government has also set up a dedicated website and helpline where you can go for wider support.

Please register now, using your NHS number, if you have received the letter so that the Government can start putting in place people to help: 

0800 028 8327 

This service can help answer any questions you may have, such as: 

  • How do I get food shopping? 
  • How do I buy medicine? 
  • How do I pick up prescriptions?

You can also register for support by contacting the countywide hub below.

Contact the Cambridgeshire hub  – use the online form

Call 0345 045 5219 Monday to Friday from 8am -6pm & Saturdays 9am - 1pm

 communitycv@cambridgeshire.gov.uk 

I haven’t been contacted but I think I am in the high-risk group – what should I do?

If you have not received a letter or been contacted by your GP or hospital consultant, but feel you are within the high-risk category, you should contact your GP practice or hospital team. If you are unsure, check the list on the Gov.uk website to see if you are in the most at risk/ extremely vulnerable group. 

I'm worried that shielding is going to affect my mental health - what do I do?

Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post or online. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling if you want to.

Remember, it is okay to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you might want to try an NHS recommended helpline.

You can refer yourself to NHS Volunteer Responders for a phone call from an NHS Volunteer, by calling 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm). We know that many people in the shielding group will already have good support networks among family, friends and neighbours, but if you don’t, the volunteers can help with a range of support, from transport to and from hospital appointments to ‘check in and chat’ – a simple phone call from a volunteer to check that you are doing ok.

Let us know if you have trouble with the referral process.

We've also put together some advice on how to look after your mental health during this time. 

Read more 

Got another question?

To find more detailed answers to these and other questions, read the Government guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.

Find out more

You can also find an easy read version: Guidance on protecting people most likely to get very poorly from coronavirus (shielding).

Go to easy read

Last updated 5 May 2020

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