What is shielding?
Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically at high risk from the coronavirus, by supporting them to self-isolate to minimise all interaction with others.
Those identified should:
- not leave their homes;
- minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household.
This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) from coming into contact with the virus.
Shielding is for your personal protection. While it is your choice to decide whether to follow these measures, the Chief Medical Officer strongly urges you to do so. This is the same approach agreed across the four UK nations.
If you have not been sent a letter from the Chief Medical Officer asking you to shield then you do not need to do so but you should continue to follow social distancing advice.
How to shield
You should stay at home and minimise non-essential contact with the other people in your household. We would not ask you to undertake these measures if we did not believe they are necessary to save lives and protect the NHS.
You should also follow these face-to-face distancing measures:
- Strictly avoid contact with anyone in your household who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID19) - these symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough;
- Don’t leave your house;
- Don’t go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at your front door to minimise contact;
- Keep in touch with family and friends using technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services - if you require an ambulance, call 999 and tell the call handler you’re following shielding measures because of an underlying health condition.
To help the NHS provide you with the best care if you need to go to hospital as a result of catching coronavirus, we ask that you have ready a single hospital bag. This should include your emergency contact, a list of the medications you take (including dose and frequency), any information on planned appointments and essential things you would need for an overnight stay (snacks, pyjamas, toothbrush, medication etc). If you have an anticipatory care plan, please include that.
Clinically high risk groups
Some specific groups of people are considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness if they become infected with coronavirus. People they live with, and other people they see, should strictly follow shielding measures in order to protect them.
A full list of these groups can be found at NHS Inform - Shielding.
If you think you fall into one of these groups, and you have not received a letter, please contact your GP.
If you believe that you have been incorrectly identified, please contact Aberdeen City’s helpline on 0800 0304 713.
If you have not received a letter and do not believe you are in the highest risk group, you do not need to follow the shielding measures but you should still be particularly careful in trying to reduce the risk of becoming infected with Coronavirus/ COVID-19. You should follow the most up to date guidance on social distancing, which will protect you and others from picking up the virus.
Adults who are eligible for an annual flu vaccine for medical reasons, will not all be proactively contacted but are asked to take additional steps to reduce their social interactions by following social distancing measures in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus.
Information for shielded groups
You have been identified using either your GP practice, local Health Board or securely stored national data so we could write to you. We would like to reassure you that this information has been shared appropriately within the NHS in Scotland and did not include your medical record.
We will also notify your GP and your Health Board that you have been contacted in order that they can provide appropriate support. You may want us to provide additional support to you by delivering medication or essential grocery supplies. If so, we will share only your contact details with your local authority (your council) in order that they can support you during this difficult time. We would highlight that this action is only being taken due to the current Covid-19 outbreak, and would assure you that your local authority will not receive any details of your medical condition or health record.
Carers and Healthcare Workers
Any essential carers or visitors who support you with your everyday needs can continue to visit, unless they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus. All visitors should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds when they arrive, before and after preparing food, and frequently during their visit.
It is also a good idea to speak to your carers about what happens if one of them becomes unwell. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact please visit Care Info Scotland.
If your carer or healthcare workers do not turn up, or they cannot come due to illness, please contact your local authority’s helpline.
GP contact and appointments after receiving letter
In these unprecedented times, GP surgeries are trying to meet the needs of all of their patients and may not yet have had time to contact you as your letter indicated they would. If you have a specific concern or wish to discuss your health, please telephone your GP practice.
Wherever possible, your GP will provide care by phone, email or online. However, if your GP decides you need to be seen in person, they will contact you to arrange a visit.
Planned hospital appointments
NHS Scotland has written to your hospital to ask them to review any ongoing care that you have with them. It is possible that some clinics and appointments will be cancelled or postponed. Your hospital or clinic will contact you by phone or letter if any changes need to be made to your care or treatment. Otherwise you should assume your care or treatment is taking place as planned. Please contact your hospital or clinic directly if you have any questions about a specific appointment or the care you usually get from hospital.
If you need Urgent Medical Care (that is not Coronavirus)
If you have an urgent medical question relating to your existing medical condition (ie not Coronavirus), or the condition of the person you are caring for please contact your GP practice, or your specialist hospital care team, directly. Where possible, you will be supported by phone or online. If your doctor decides you need to be seen in person, we will arrange to visit you in your home, or where necessary, see you in a hospital.
Call 999 in a medical emergency. This is when somebody is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at serious risk. Tell the call handler you’re following shielding measures because of an underlying health condition.
If, at any point, you think you have developed symptoms of coronavirus, such as a new, continuous cough and/or high temperature (above 37.8 °C), seek clinical advice by phoning the NHS on 111. Do this as soon as you notice symptoms.
This is different to the advice that we are giving people who do not fall into the very high risk group, who are only being asked to contact the NHS if they feel very unwell. We are asking you to get in touch sooner than we are advising everyone else.
A new continuous cough is where you:
- have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour;
- have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours;
- are coughing more than usual.
A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature).
Looking after your mental health while shielding
We understand that this may be a worrying time and you may find staying at home and having limited contact frustrating. If you have been asked to shield yourself it is because you are at the highest clinical risk and should protect yourself.
At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour, which can make you feel worse. Simple things you can do to stay mentally and physically active during this time include:
- look for ideas for exercises to do at home on the NHS website;
- spend time doing things you enjoy – reading, cooking, jigsaws and other indoor hobbies;
- try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and recreational drugs;
- try spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight. Get out into the garden or sit on your doorstep if you can, keeping a distance of at least 2 metres or 6 feet from others.
If required, the letter is evidence for your employer, to show that you cannot work outside the home. You do not need to get a separate fit note from your GP.
If you’ve been financially affected by coronavirus, and if you’re eligible, you should apply for Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance. The UK Government has introduced some temporary changes to make this process easier. Find out more at Understanding Universal Credit.
Money Talk Team, from the Citizens Advice network in Scotland, can help you see what benefits you might be entitled to, and offer you advice to help make your money go further. You can call the team on 0800 085 7145 or visit the Money Talk Team website.
For more information on healthy living and healthy eating please visit; Healthy Living - Healthy Eating
Frequently asked questions on shielding: