If you are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), you should have been contacted by the NHS or your GP telling you that you are on the shielded patient list. It is important that you read the full government guidance for extremely vulnerable people for the nation where you live: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
- If you think you should be on the shielded patient list and you have not been contacted by your GP or the NHS, you should discuss it with your GP or medical team.
- If you have received a letter or text advising you that you are on the shielded patient list but you think it is an error, check the government advice on what to do.
People who have cancer of the blood or bone marrow, such as lymphoma, leukaemia or myeloma, who are at any stage of treatment, are considered to be at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This means they are in the group classed as extremely vulnerable. These people are on the shielded patient list
The government guidance refers to ‘Patients at any stage of treatment’ for blood cancers, including lymphoma. This includes people before, during and after treatment.
People who are currently having treatment for any type of lymphoma.
(Patients on treatment should follow the standard neutropenic sepsis pathways and telephone for clinical advice as stated by their chemotherapy unit prior to commencing treatment.)
COVID-19 is a new illness and at present, there is limited scientific evidence to guide decisions on exactly who is at high risk of severe disease. Public Health England recommends that anybody who has had treatment for lymphoma should be on the shielded patient list but does not give a time frame for how long ago the treatment was.
A consensus of UK lymphoma specialists agree that it is sensible for people who have low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma to be on the shielded patient list even if they have not required treatment for many years.
If you were successfully treated for Hodgkin lymphoma or high-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma many years ago and your lymphoma has not come back, the situation is more complicated. Your GP or specialist will consider lots of factors to help determine if you might be at high risk of serious illness due to COVID-19. This includes:
- the specific type of lymphoma you had
- how long ago you were treated
- the exact treatment you had
- any late effects of treatment you might be at risk of
- any other medical conditions you have
- your individual circumstances (for example, your living situation or your occupation).
Your GP or specialist will offer advice that is specific to you.
If you have had a splenectomy, you should be on the shielded patient list.
You should follow any specific advice your medical team gives you. The government has also produced advice for extremely vulnerable people. This varies depending on where you live. We have separate webpages covering:
- guidance on coronavirus for people with lymphoma: England
- guidance on coronavirus for people with lymphoma: Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
- general measures you can take to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Shielding is a way of protecting extremely vulnerable people from COVID-19 by minimising their interaction with other people. This reduces their chance of coming into contact with the virus.
The government introduced strict shielding guidance and support measures in March, when levels of coronavirus were very high. Shielding is currently paused throughout the UK but it could be introduced again if coronavirus levels rise.
Your GP or specialist might advise you to take additional precautions to reduce your risk of being exposed to coronavirus infection, but this does not officially class as shielding. Shielding can only be introduced by the government, based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer. If shielding is reintroduced where you live, you should get a letter from the government advising you what to do. In this case, you might be eligible for extra support from your local authority.
People classed as extremely vulnerable were advised to take extra precautions during the peak of the pandemic earlier in the year. This was called shielding. The government paused shielding when coronavirus levels in the community dropped and your risk of developing COVID-19 became lower.
If you are on the shielded patient list, you are still considered extremely vulnerable if you do develop COVID-19. Your details have been kept on the shielded patient list so you can be contacted if the advice changes. You should not be removed from the shielded patient list without your GP or medical team discussing it with you first.
Although virus levels are now rising again, there are more measures in place to protect you than there were at the start of the pandemic. For this reason, shielding is not currently being reintroduced in most places.
Guidance on whether to shield in the future will be based on the level of coronavirus in your local area, rather than across the UK as a whole. If levels of coronavirus are particularly high in your area, you might be advised to shield again. If this is the case, you should be contacted by letter or text message with further advice. Shielding advice might not be the same as it was initially.
The government is also working on ways to provide shielding advice based on a person's individual risk in the future.
There are many coronavirus vaccines in development. Some of them have shown very encouraging results. They now need to go through a rigorous approval process to make sure they're safe and effective before they're licensed for widespread use. At the moment, we don't know when the vaccines will be available or who they'll be suitable for but we will update our information when more data is available.