What is shielding?
Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus, by minimising all interaction between them and others.
Those who are extremely vulnerable 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 from coming into contact with the virus.
If you have one of the conditions listed and have not yet received a letter regarding shielding, then please contact your GP to confirm that you should be shielding and to arrange for registration with the support service. If you have received a letter, you’re strongly advised to shield yourself to reduce your chance of getting coronavirus.
You should also follow these face-to-face distancing measures:
- Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia))
- Don’t leave your house
- Don’t attend any gatherings - this includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces for example family homes, weddings and religious services
- Don’t go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact
- Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
- Use phone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services - if you require an ambulance, phone 999 and tell the call handler you’re following shielding measures because of an underlying health condition
We know that stopping these activities will be difficult. You should try to identify ways of staying in touch with others and participating in your normal activities from your home. However, you must not participate in alternative activities if they involve any contact with other people.
This advice will be in place until at least 18 June.
To shield or not
Shielding is for your personal protection. It’s your choice to decide whether to follow these measures.
People who have been given a prognosis of less than 6 months to live, and some others in special circumstances, could decide not to undertake shielding. This will be a deeply personal decision you may want to discuss with family or others that are close to you. You should phone your GP or specialist to discuss this as well.
Shielding letter from NHS Scotland
NHS Scotland will be directly contacting people with these conditions to provide further advice.
If you received a letter from NHS Scotland saying you have a condition that makes you at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus, you’re strongly advised to shield yourself to reduce your chance of getting the virus.
If you have one of the conditions listed above but have not received a letter, you should speak to your GP or specialist and follow the advice you receive.
This may be anxious time for people considered extremely vulnerable and you will have questions and concerns. Plans are being made to make sure you can rely on a wide range of help and support.
Workers who need to shield
Contact your employer if you need to shield because of an underlying condition but are currently well. Do not phone your GP or 111.
If you received a shielding letter from NHS Scotland because you’re at very high risk of severe illness, show this to your employer as evidence you can’t work outside your home.
What should I do if I have someone else living with me?
The rest of your household aren’t required to adopt shielding measures for themselves. However, they should support you in shielding by following the guidance on physical distancing.
Minimise the time other family members spend in shared spaces (such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas) as much as possible and keep shared spaces well ventilated.
- aim to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from people you live with and encourage them to sleep in a different bed where possible
- use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household, if you can - if you do share a toilet and bathroom with others, it’s important that they are cleaned after use every time (for example, wiping surfaces you have come into contact with)
- consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first
- make sure you use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying yourself after bathing and for hand hygiene purposes
- avoid using the kitchen while they are present
- take your meals back to your room to eat, if you can
- use a dishwasher (if you have one) to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery – if you don’t have a dishwasher, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water
- use a separate tea towel for drying crockery and cutlery
It will be difficult for some people to separate themselves from others at home. You should do your best to follow this guidance and everyone in your household should:
- regularly wash their hands
- avoid touching their face
- clean frequently touched surfaces
Handwashing and respiratory hygiene
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus:
- wash your hands more often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser
- wash your hand when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
- cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home
- wash their hands more often
- stay at home for 7 days if they have symptoms
- stay at home for 14 days if someone in their household has symptoms
Help with food and medicines
Discuss your daily needs with carers, family, friends, neighbours or local community groups, to see how they can support you. You can also use online services to arrange food deliveries.
You may receive a letter from NHS Scotland saying you have a very high risk of severe illness with coronavirus because of your condition. This letter provides details on how you can register to get help with delivery of groceries and medication.
The Government will also be offering support to help you self-isolate, including making sure that you have the food and medication you need - if you don’t have other means of getting these.
You can access this support:
- through a text message service, which is specifically for supporting people who are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus
- by phoning your local authority's shielding support line, which will be able to arrange for food and medicine deliveries, and signpost you to other support services
Text message service
You will have received information about this service in the letter sent to you by the Chief Medical Officer telling you that you’re considered to be in the shielding group.
This service will:
- send you text messages to ask if you need us to arrange a weekly delivery of basic groceries or if you’re running low on medication
- never ask you for financial or other personal information, and the text messages will always come from the same number, which is the one that you originally used to register with the service
- keep you up to date with the latest information for people who are shielding
If you have been told by your GP that you’re in the shielding group, but you haven’t yet received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer, you may find there is a delay of several days before you are able to register for the text message service while your records are being updated.
If you need help arranging groceries or other support while you are waiting to be able to register, you should contact your local authority.
The Government is helping pharmacies to deliver prescriptions.
Prescriptions will continue to cover the same length of time as usual. If you don’t have your prescriptions collected or delivered, you can arrange this by:
- asking someone who can, to pick up your prescription from the local pharmacy - this is the best option, if possible
- using the text message service
- phoning your local authority's shielding support line
You may also need to arrange for collection or delivery of hospital specialist medication that’s prescribed to you by your hospital care team.
Health and social care support
If you receive support from health and social care organisations, such as care support through your local authority, this will continue as normal.
Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you’re protected.
Helpline for vulnerable people
A helpline (0800 111 4000) has been setup for those at increased risk who don’t have a support network, such as family or existing community support.
It can also be used by those in the shielding group who can’t get online and haven’t received a letter yet.
Callers will be connected to their local authority who will help them access the services they need, including:
- essential food and medication
- links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults
- emotional support
- contact with local volunteer groups
The helpline is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.