Extension of shielding period and increase in those considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’

Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 17 February 2021. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check the relevant government website for updates as they happen.

On the afternoon of 16 February, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that new technology has allowed them to use a new predictive risk model (QCovid®)  to help clinicians identify adults with multiple risk factors which make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

This has enabled them to identify a further 1.7 million adults, 820,000 of whom are aged between 19 and 69, who are at high risk from COVID and who will now be added to the Shielded Patient list “on a precautionary basis and to enable rapid vaccination”.

These individuals will receive a letter from NHS England this week explaining that their risk factors identify them to be at higher clinical risk and therefore they are included within the support and advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable.

Extended shielding guidance

The announcement also reveals that the government is extending the current shielding guidance for all of those already identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (including new patients identified through the QCovid® model) from 21 February to 31 March. Those already on the Shielded Patient List will receive a letter this week informing them of the extension of the shielding period.

The government will not be making changes to the list of medical conditions used when identifying those who are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable.

If those who have been added to the list through the use of the new risk model have any concerns about this, they are advised to speak with their own GP or specialist clinician. They can make a clinical assessment and can decide to remove someone from the list (just as they can currently add or remove patients from this list).

Earlier today (17 February) the Department of Health published the letter going out to those who are shielding informing them of the extension of the shielding period to 31 March. This letter states that the shielding advice should be followed even if the individual has received both doses of the vaccine pending the government’s assessment of the impact of vaccination.

What does this mean for employers?

If employers are approached by their employees on this issue, it’s important that they ask to see the shielding letter as evidence of the employee’s need to shield.

They also should bear in mind that such individuals are advised not to attend work if they can’t work from home and that the furlough scheme specifically covers shielding even where the employer is not facing wider business disruption due to COVID.

How Citation can help

If you’re a Citation client and you have questions about how to manage employees who are currently shielding, or who may have to start shielding as a result of this new announcement, you can call our 24/7 advice line for expert guidance on 0345 844 4848.

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