Information about shielding

Here is the latest guidance for parents who have been told that their baby or child is extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and needs to practice shielding.

Last updated: 4th June 2020

What is shielding?

The government recommends that some people, including some babies and children born premature or sick, should only leave their house for very limited reasons. This is called shielding. People who are encouraged to shield are people who have medical conditions which may make them extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

NHS services in the UK have been making contact directly with people who are considered to be in this group. You may have received a letter or a text message in April or May which should explain whether you, or your child is considered to be extremely vulnerable. Some people have received updates about this.

If you have been contacted by the NHS in this way you are considered to be on the shielded patients list (SPL). This means that you are able to get more support, such as help with shopping deliveries.

In all parts of the UK, you are advised to stay at home as much as possible. When outside, you should always remain 2 metres away from others. You should also wash your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitiser.

However, the shielding guidance is different in different parts of the UK. See below for the guidance where you live.

This guidance can change quite quickly as some restrictions are lifted, so if you are unsure, always check the latest information. If you are unsure about how the guidance affects you or your family, you can contact us at hello@bliss.org.uk or speak to your GP.

There is further guidance about shielding and communication you may have received further down this page.

England and Wales

If you live in England or Wales, you are strongly advised to stay at home as much as possible. On the 1st June, the guidance was changed to allow those shielding in England and Wales to leave the house for exercise or to spend time outside.

If you live with other people, you can spend time outside only with members of your household.

If you live alone, you can spend time outside with one person from another household.

These are significant changes to previous guidance, which recommended that people do not leave their house unless absolutely necessary. You can find more information here.

If you feel more comfortable continuing to stay at home, that is okay. If you would like to speak to someone about these changes, we are here for you. Get in touch at hello@bliss.org.uk

Scotland

If you live in Scotland, you are advised not to leave your home. You should also minimise all non-essential contact with other members of your household. The Scottish Government has advised that this guidance will not be reviewed until the 18th June at the earliest.

Northern Ireland

If you live in Northern Ireland, you are advised not to leave your home. You should also minimise all non-essential contact with other members of your household. This guidance may change from the week beginning the 8th June. We will update this page to reflect any changes to the shielding guidance.

I have received a letter or text message from the NHS to say that my baby or child is on the shielded patients list and I don’t know why. Is it because my baby was born premature or sick?

Although prematurity in itself is not listed as a high-risk condition, we are aware that some parents of babies who were born prematurely have been contacted.

If you have any concerns about the letter you have received or think that you may have received it in error, please contact your GP or hospital clinician as soon as possible. In the meantime, it is advised that you follow the guidance on shielding issued by Public Health England or NHS Inform in Scotland unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional.

I have received a letter or text message from the NHS to say that my baby or child is on the shielded patients list. Do I also have to shield myself, and what support can I get?

Current guidance suggests that if family members are able to practice social distancing by separating out the family’s roles at home, this may allow some family members to continue to work. This includes working in high risk occupations which may come across COVID-19.

However, they should support the 'shielding' process by following guidance on strict social distancing when outside the home. The government website has more guidance about what to do at home to protect family members living with you.

It is important to maintain a normal family life as far as is possible whilst protecting all members of the family. Each family situation will be different and decisions will need to be taken individually.

The NHS letter provides more details on how you can register to get help with home deliveries and medications.

The letter also supports family members who need to talk with their employers about the impact of social distancing and shielding on their work.

I have received a letter or text message to say my baby or child is on the shielded patients list, but I am a key worker and cannot work from home. What should I do?

Current government guidance says you will not need to shield if your baby/child is on the shielded patients list, but you should be very strict in following all of the social distancing guidelines. You may want to talk to your employer and explain that someone in your household is extremely vulnerable and is shielding, and ask if there are ways they can support you with social distancing in the workplace.

If you work in a clinical environment, such as a hospital, this will make social distancing more difficult. You should discuss your concerns with your line manager to see what other arrangements can be agreed.

Working Families have more information about your work rights during COVID-19.

I have not received a letter from the NHS to say that my baby or child is on the shielded patients list, but I think they should be on the list. What should I do?

If you have not received a letter or a text message and think you or your baby should be on the list, you can register yourself on the government website. You can then contact your GP or specialist.

Does my child have to go to school or nursery if they have received a letter to say they need to shield?

Children who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should continue to shield and should not be expected to attend school when schools reopen.

Other useful organisations

Asthma UK has information about coronavirus (COVID-19).

Wellchild has specific information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for parents and carers of sick children.

The British Lung Foundation has specific information about coronavirus for people with lung conditions.

The British Heart Foundation have information for people affected by heart or circulatory disease.

Mind has lots of information if you are feeling anxious or worried about COVID-19, and has guidance on how to take care of your mental wellbeing.

YoungMinds has more information about how to talk to your children about COVID-19.

We are updating this page as more information becomes available. For more support, get in touch at hello@bliss.org.uk