In recent weeks there has been a lot of information about patients who may be considered vulnerable and at risk of serious complications should they become infected with COVID 19 (Corona Virus) and whether they should be shielding.
Nationally the government and NHS England have been using clinical based evidence from other clinicians working around the world as well as clinicians in the UK to identify the small majority of patients who are at highest risk if they were to become infected. These patients have been asked by the government to shield themselves from risk. We can confirm that all patients who meet the criteria to shield should have received their letter from either the practice or NHS England.
Patients who are shielding have to follow a much stricter protocol to prevent them from the risk of infection. These patients will receive instructions around separating their living arrangements completely from those in the home. This is done by using a separate bathroom and bedroom. Taking meals at different times to family members and remaining in a separate room from other family members. These patients should not leave the home and are expected to remain in complete isolation for 12 weeks. This is a very difficult thing to do and many patients who are shielding will find this level of isolation very difficult both mentally and physically. Asking a patient to completely shield themselves in this way will have long term effects on their physical and mental health and is therefore a last resort decision for some patients. The number of patients who are in this category are very small and many have already received a letter sent from NHS England advising them to remain shielded with instructions on how to do this safely.
In addition the government are identifying patients who are vulnerable to the disease and may have a longer recovery or may suffer complications. These patients are being asked to isolate themselves as much as possible asking family and friends to help with shopping so they do not have to leave their homes. These patients do not need to shield themselves by isolating in one room but they do need to consider the risks they may be taking by leaving the home and ensuring that those living with them take extra precautions such as frequent hand washing and cleaning of surfaces. These patients are a much larger group and are usually those who receive an annual flu vaccination.
As you can appreciate it has been a mammoth task to identify all of these patients and nationally there has been a drive by NHS England to establish which of the larger vulnerable group of patients should now consider shielding. As you can appreciate the information changes frequently as we learn more about the effects of COVID 19 and the risk level to different patients.
As a practice we have now identified all patients who we consider to meet the clinical criteria for shielding. If you have not received a letter but feel that you should have been included in the shielded cohort of patients please contact the practice to discuss with your named GP.