Coronavirus: What does shielding mean?

Find out more about shielding, who it applies to, and what to do if you're a shielder.
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Last updated 5th January 2021

We are in National lockdown: Stay at Home. 

Coronavirus cases are rising rapidly across the country. Find out what you can and cannot do. Go to the GOV website for the most up to date information.

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Update as as 26th January:

All clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people should now have been advised by a letter from the Government to follow shielding guidance and of the support office available to them. Emails and texts have also been sent to many people on the list where contact information is available.

The Shielded Patient List remains a live list, with people newly considered as CEV being continually added (e.g. people with a new diagnosis that changes their risk status).

Certain areas of the country are now moving into vaccinations for priority groups 3 (75yrs+) and 4 (70yrs+ and CEV people) where there is capacity to vaccinate beyond groups 1 and 2. Approximately half of the 2.3m CEV people are under 70yrs.

I’m a clinically extremely vulnerable person – what do I do? 

If you are clinically vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. There is additional advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend work, school, college or university, and limit the time you spend outside the home. You should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential.

Further support will be made available from your local council and community pharmacies to help protect you during this period of heightened risk. 

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How do I get food and medication if I need to shield? 

Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. 

NHS Volunteer Responders will offer support with:

  • collecting shopping, medication (if your friends and family cannot collect them for you) or other essential supplies
  • a regular, friendly phone call, either with someone else who has previously been advised to shield or with different volunteers
  • transport to medical appointments

Call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm to arrange support or visit the NHS Volunteer Responders website. Speak to your health care professional to arrange transport support.

Age UK Winter Warmer Campaign

As we enter a period of increased Covid-19 restrictions, Age UK West Sussex, Brighton & Hove partnering with West Sussex County Council (WSCC) have received funding to deliver nutritious home-cooked meals, wellbeing and energy advice to over 50’s across West Sussex. The Winter Warmer campaign runs from now, until the end of March 2021.

For a suggested donation of just £2, they can deliver delicious frozen meals and desserts direct to your door by a friendly volunteer, along with energy checks, information and advice on how to keep well and warm this winter.

Please call on 01903  731 800 if you, or someone you know might be interested in finding out more about our Winter Warmer campaign, or any of our services. Alternatively email

They can deliver up to 2 – 3 times each week, if freezer space is an issue. Menus change regularly. Please contact to discuss any specific needs or dietary requirements.

What support will I be able to access as a 'clinically extremely vulnerable person' (but not told to shield)?

You will still be able to get:

Go to the government's advice on shielding

Tell us about your experience of care

Has your health and/ or social care been disrupted by COVID-19? Whether it’s good or bad, we want to hear from you.

It only takes five minutes and your feedback can help NHS and social care services understand the steps they can take to improve care for you and your loved ones.

Tell us your experience

Frequently asked questions

The following Q&A, based on information provided by the Government, aims to help you get some of the answers you need to know about what shielding means in practice.

What does ‘shielding’ mean? 

Shielding is the word used to describe how to protect those at highest risk of severe illness if they catch COVID-19. You can shield yourself following the Government guidance, and shield others by minimising all interaction between yourself and those who are most at risk.

Will I be asked to shield again?

The government is sending COVID-19: letters to clinically extremely vulnerable people. This letter is to let you know about the new guidance that will be in place for clinically extremely vulnerable people.

Translations, large print and audio versions are being updated.

To view the latest advice for ‘clinically extremely vulnerable' click here.

I haven’t been contacted but I think I am in the high-risk group – what should I do?

If you have not received a letter or been contacted by your GP or hospital consultant, but feel you are within the high-risk category, you should contact your GP practice or hospital team. If you are unsure, check the list on the website to see if you are in the most at risk/ extremely vulnerable group. 

My main carer is unwell – what do I do?

Speak to your carers about back-up plans for your care in case your main carer is unwell or needs to self-isolate.

You should have an alternative list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell. You can also contact your local council, or contact us for advice on how to access care.

I'm worried that shielding is going to affect my mental health - what do I do?

Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post or online. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling if you want to.

Remember, it is okay to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you might want to try an NHS recommended helpline.

You can refer yourself to NHS Volunteer Responders for a phone call from an NHS Volunteer, by calling 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm). We know that many people in the shielding group will already have good support networks among family, friends and neighbours, but if you don’t, the volunteers can help with a range of support, from transport to and from hospital appointments to ‘check in and chat’ – a simple phone call from a volunteer to check that you are doing ok.

If you have trouble with the referral process, contact us.

Got another question?

To find more detailed answers to these and other questions, read the Government guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. Or contact us.

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