Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. Updated 8 January 2021
In this section
- definition of clinically extremely vulnerable
- who is this guidance is for?
- what has changed?
- additional guidance
People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. There are two ways you may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable:
- you have one or more of the conditions listed on the Government website, Website: Definition of clinically extremely vulnerable groups from GOV.UK (opens in a new window)
- your hospital clinician or GP has added you to the Shielded patients list from NHS (opens in a new window) because, based on their clinical judgement, they deem you to be at higher risk of serious illness if you catch the virus
If you do not fall into either of these categories and have not been informed that you are on the Shielded patients list, follow the new National Restrictions.
This guidance is for everyone who has been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable. If you are in this group, you will previously have received a letter from the NHS or from your GP telling you this. You may have been advised to shield in the past.
This shielding 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. They should instead follow the general advice and regulations set out in the national lockdown guidance that came into effect on 5 January 2021 (opens in a new window).
The clinically extremely vulnerable will get priority access to vaccination against COVID-19 before the general population and in line with the priority ordering set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). You will be contacted again by the NHS with more information on when and how you will be invited to get the vaccine.
The vaccine is likely to make an important contribution towards protecting you from COVID-19. Clinically extremely vulnerable people are expected to receive a vaccination against COVID-19 before the general population.
Your local NHS will ensure that you can receive the vaccine as safely as possible, as well as any care and support needed.
Even if you have had both doses of the vaccine, you should continue to follow this shielding advice, until further notice as we continue to assess the impact of vaccination among all groups. The people you live with should continue to follow the public health rules and guidance as long as they are in place, including if you have received the vaccine and also if they have received the vaccine.
COVID-19 case numbers are now very high and rising rapidly across the country, driven by the new variant of COVID-19.
Everyone in England, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, are required to follow the new national lockdown guidance, which has been set out by the government and applies to the whole population. These restrictions are:
- you must stay at home, except for specific purposes
- you must not gathering with those you do not live with, except for specific purposes
- certain businesses and venues will be closed
- children and young people will learn remotely until February half term, except for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers who may still attend school
These new formal shielding measures will apply across the whole of England during the period of national lockdown.
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 (opens in a new window), 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 two 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 significantly 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 cannot make alternative arrangements, your employer may be able to furlough you under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from GOV.UK (opens in a new window), 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.
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.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to stay at home as much as possible and not to travel unless essential (for example, to attend health appointments).
You are advised not to go to the shops. Shop online if you can, or if you have support from any family members, friends or neighbours please let them help you with your essentials.
You can register online to access priority online supermarket deliveries if you do not have someone you can rely on to go shopping for you. If you already have a priority delivery slot with a supermarket, 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 priority 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 a priority supermarket delivery slot, you should contact Here2Help by visiting or by calling the a dedicated number on 01905 768053 and pressing option 3.
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 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.
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 Health at home from NHS (opens in a new window) 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 (opens in a new window) 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 from NHS (opens in a new window) 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 from GOV.UK (opens in a new window) where close or personal contact is not required.
You can register on the National Shielding Support Service to get support if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. The service should be used if you have a medical condition which means you’re classed as being clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.
You can use this service to:
- get access to priority supermarket deliveries (if you have already got priority supermarket deliveries, you will keep them)
- ask for someone to contact you about any local support that’s available
- update your details, for example, your address
You can register yourself, or on behalf of someone else. If you need help to register for the new online service, we can help. Contact us by visiting Here2Help or by calling the a dedicated number on 01905 768053 and pressing option 3.
The Here2Help opening hours are Monday to Thursday 9.00am to 5.00pm and Friday 9.00am to 4.30pm.
When you register on the new service 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.