End of shielding programme for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people

Published Monday 20 September 2021 at 14:20

The government has announced an official end of its shielding programme, established in March 2020 to protect Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) people during the Covid pandemic.

The government’s decision follows the relaxation of Covid guidance and legislation during summer 2021, and the government’s announcement of its Winter Plan last week.

The guidance for people previously advised to ‘shield’ by staying at home and limiting contact with others changed in April 2021, as they were told to take the same precautions as the general population.

All 3,642 CEV people in Blackburn with Darwen who were previously on the NHS’s Shielded Patient List will receive a letter/email from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, advising them of this latest policy change.

The letter will advise them that the government will not be providing specific national guidance for people previously classed as CEV to follow. This group of people will be encouraged to get vaccinated if they have not already done so, as well as being given information about third dose vaccination, boosters and other therapies.

They will also be advised to continue seeking support from the NHS and other health providers for their existing health conditions and any new health concerns. The letter will also include information about local mental health support, as well as details of how their local council and third sector organisations can help.

Other advice offered to formerly shielding residents includes:

  • considering whether you and those you are meeting have been vaccinated – you might want to wait until 14 days after everyone’s second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before being in close contact with others
  • considering continuing to practise social distancing if that feels right for you
  • asking friends and family to take a rapid lateral flow test before visiting you
  • asking visitors to your home to wear face coverings
  •  avoiding crowded spaces.

Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s Director of Public Health, said:

Given the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines, the successful roll-out of the vaccine programme, and the availability of other treatments such as antibody therapy, the government believes that the time is right to end the shielding programme. This means patients will no longer be classified as CEV and will not be advised to shield in the future.

The judgement now is that although risks to Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people, are not zero, even if they are fully vaccinated, the health risks to their social, emotional, mental and physical health from continued shielding and exclusion from normal life may well be greater than the continued Covid infection risk.

The one exception is patients who are immuno-suppressed or immuno-compromised. This group of people are advised to consult their specialist at their next routine appointment about the steps they need to take to support their own health and safety. Most people previously classed as CEV will be well protected by the vaccine. However, emerging evidence suggests those who are immuno-suppressed or immuno-compromised will have a less strong response.

Coun Mustafa Desai, Executive Member for Adult Services, added:

Covid hasn’t gone away – the borough’s current case* rate puts us in the bottom half of the England table. But in Blackburn with Darwen we have made great progress in controlling virus rates – having seen the borough’s daily case rates decrease each day for the past six days.

It is encouraging that the government feels that the threat of Covid to Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people has passed, and there’s no doubt that the vaccines have had a huge part to play in this.

We understand that people who have previously been shielding at home may still feel uneasy or even anxious about returning to a more normal life. I want to reassure those people that help is still available to them through the BwD Help Hub – please don’t hesitate to get in touch however big or small your request.

Families, friends and carers can also play their part in supporting their loved ones to feel more confident to get back into pre-pandemic routines.

The BwD Help Hub provides a variety of services, and dedicated staff can tailor support to individuals:

  • Mental health support
  • Wellbeing and loneliness
  • Finance, benefits and debt management
  • Learning, training and employment
  • Getting online and using modern technology.

Get in touch:

  • blackburn.gov.uk/helphub
  • 01254 588111

Councillor Desai added:

We are realistic about Covid and we do expect case rates to increase as we head into autumn and winter, and people spend more time indoors together.

We are appealing to everyone to do the right thing, be kind and respectful to others and follow the basic Covid infection control measures to help keep everyone safe.


*Using confirmed data to 14 September 2021

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