National Shielding Programme has ended
On 16th September the Government announced its decision to end the national shielding programme for clinically extremely vulnerable people. A link to the government announcement is here: Shielding programme ends for most vulnerable – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
This is based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer looking at a number of factors
- Vaccine take up is very high in this group
- Vaccine efficacy is high for a large proportion* of people in this group
- the risk of harm from shielding for extended periods is significant
Within the current shielding group, there are people who are immuno-compromised by their clinical conditions, or immuno-suppressed from medication they take to mange their conditions. For most people in this sub-group, they will have a weaker response to vaccination – for a small number, this could be a significantly lower level of protection (levels of protection range from 4% to 70%) – and this group of people will be given guidance by their NHS hospital consultant/ team on how to manage their exposure to Covid-19 as well as other viruses in common circulation.
Following further study of the coronavirus, including developments in treatments for those who get the virus, the government does not think there is a continued need to distinguish the group of people who were “clinically extremely vulnerable” from the larger and wider group of people who are “clinically vulnerable” – the majority of whom would be invited for an annual free flu jab.
All over 18s who are currently classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, will be invited for a further dose of vaccination this Autumn, and some people who are immuno-compromised and immuno-suppressed will additionally be invited for a booster dose of vaccination, to be timed according to their medical treatments.
The government has now sent a letter to the 165,000 people in West Yorkshire who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to make them aware of this change in policy. A copy of the letter can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19.
Local authorities and local health and care systems are currently reviewing how we will continue to support people who are at increased risk from the virus and will use local information channels to make people aware of the support that will continue to be available to them. Local support documents on Routes to Support will be revised in light of this change in policy, and will include an “FAQ” for anyone working with members of the public who may be asked questions about this, as well as the most up to date information from Departments for Work and Pensions on how this may affect employment.
The key messages to people who are clinically vulnerable in West Yorkshire is one of re-assurance – that the assessed risk from coronavirus is now significantly lower than it was in March 2020 when shielding was introduced. That local practical and emotional support will remain in place for people who need to reduce their risk and that we will continue to work closely as health and care partners to make sure that people are informed about the support that is available.
Considerations for health and care partners:
- Practical support channels will need to remain in place for the significantly immunocompromised/ immunosuppressed
- People who are immunocompromised/ immunosuppressed are being directed to their specialists for advice on their level of risk – rather than primary care
- Primary Care can continue to refer anyone who is clinically vulnerable – with practical or emotional support needs to their local council support teams
- Further advice and guidance is being sought from DWP which will be relayed to primary and secondary care about the provision of fit notes for people who are immunocompromised/ immunosuppressed who are in high exposure occupations.