The new three tier risk system announced by Government includes the option for shielding advice to be reinstated in certain cases when an area is at Very High Risk/ Level 3.

People in the shielding group are those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to Covid-19 and have been identified by the NHS as needing to follow specific advice to limit their risk of exposure to the virus.

The advice to shield is independently triggered by the Chief Medical Officer nationally, and may be done at national level OR at local level, in collaboration with the local Director of Public Health. The new Guidance for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people, in line with the new tier system was published online on 13th October here and the NHS will be writing to all people in this group with information on the changes in the next week.

The advice to shield at home was paused on the 1st August 2020 after a sustained 19 week period in which the advice was for this group of people to stay home, not attend shops, not go out to work and to limit all non-essential contact with people outside the home.

The advice to shield, if/when it is needed, will affect in the region of 42,000 people in Leeds. This number changes slightly every week to accommodate births, deaths, new diagnoses and people completing treatment successfully. People in this group with additional vulnerabilities may also need additional support at Very High Risk/Level 3 even before shielding at home is advised – for example to switch to online shopping or help to follow the advice to reduce risk of exposure. This is estimated to be in the region of 2,000-4,000 people.

Leeds City Council and partners are actively in communication with people in the shielding group, even whilst formal advice to shield at home is paused, to ensure that they are aware of the ways that they can manage their risk and that support is available to them locally. Currently in the region of 36,000 people receive text updates and these have been very positively welcomed by those receiving them. To date, only one person has unsubscribed from the service. For those without access to text messaging, we target messages through community organisations, social media, media and through corporate communications – to ensure that wherever possible, people feel empowered to manage the heightened risk they are facing. When there is a substantive change to advice, we additionally send a letter to each person on the list.

Leeds is also preparing that in the event of advice to shield being reinstated that we have the right kind of support in place to enable people to stay healthily and happy at home. This currently includes:

  • When the advice changes to not going to work outside of the home – how to access statutory sick pay, including advice and information on employment rights and accessing the right benefits
  • When the advice changes to not going to school in person – how to support schools to ensure that children continue to have an educational offer as well as a continued social and emotional connection to school, supporting families who cannot manage this situation easily, including practical advice and support.
  • When the advice changes to not going to the shops in person, how to access to food (see above) – including priority online food deliveries, volunteer assisted shopping, assistance with specialist diets, advice and information on food affordability and some limited delivery of emergency food parcels.
  • When the advice changes to not going to pharmacies in person, how to access to medicines and medical supplies – including using the national registration scheme for free deliveries, volunteer assisted deliveries and specialist support for accessing controlled substances.
  • When the advice changes to only allowing professionals or people in your support hub to help deliver care – including advice and support on how to manage safely and to understand who and who should not help deliver your care; advice and support for carers.
  • When the advice changes to staying at home as much as possible – how to maintain physical and mental wellbeing, as well as practical tips for keeping the home covid-free, managing deliveries and advice for family members. Including signposting to community and NHS mental health support.
  • When the advice changes to avoid public transport at all time – how to access transport support to attend hospital or medical appointments.
  • When the advice or risk  level changes – where and how to ask for specific questions or advice that may emerge – such as home repairs, accessing non-urgent wellbeing support or how to manage any safeguarding concerns when access to the home is not advised