Shielding: How to keep safe during the coronavirus outbreak 

1 June update on government guidance for people who are shielding

People who are shielding should continue to take precautions but can now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing. If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household. If you live alone, you can spend time outdoors with one person from another household. Ideally, this should be the same person each time. If you do go out, you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart.

Further information can be found on GOV.UK: Government guidance for people who are shielding 


H&F Shield

An emergency service called H&F Shield is helping residents who are the most at risk from COVID-19. These are people with certain underlying conditions or who are immunosuppressed (for example, due to a course of chemotherapy), who the government has advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks and avoid any face-to-face contact. 

H&F Shield is part of a national NHS scheme and the NHS is directly contacting people with these conditions to provide further advice.

To get help from H&F Shield (for people identified by the NHS as in need of support during the coronavirus crisis), please contact us using our online form.

Apply for help from H&F Shield

Or call: Freephone 0800 917 6994

Or email: shield@lbhf.gov.uk

Further guidance

The guidance below is for adults and children identified by the NHS as at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). It also contains guidance for the person’s family, friends and carers.

Whether you live in your own home, with or without support, or in a long-term care facility, either for the elderly or for people with special needs, this guidance should tell you everything you need to know to keep safe – know as ‘shielding’ during the current outbreak.

  • Who has been identified by the NHS as in need of support during this crisis?

    People falling into this group include:

    1.    Solid organ transplant recipients.

    2.    People with specific cancers: 

    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs

    3.    People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD

    4.    People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).

    5.    People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.

    6.    Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

    Care providers for persons who fall into this group and are living in long-term care facilities should carefully discuss this guidance with the person’s families, carers and specialist doctors to ensure it is strictly adhered to.

  • What is shielding?

    There are several things you can do to help shield yourself from the coronavirus. Shielding is a means of protecting yourself by minimising interaction between you and others. 

    1. Do not leave your house.
    2. Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
    3. Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
    4. Avoid any face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks from the day you receive this letter. 
    5. All people coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival.
    6. Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). 
    7. If they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), your carer or care workers must stay away. In case this should happen, you should have an alternative list of people who can help you with your care while your care worker is unwell.
    8. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.


    If you have someone else living with you, they are not required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves.

    This advice will be in place for at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter. It is possible that this period of time could change.

    Shielding provides stronger protection than the regular social distancing measures the government is recommending. People who are not in this group who have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19) and recovered will be able to go about their normal business.

    Shielding is for your personal protection and whether you decide to adopt the safety measures we are proposing is of course your decision. For some this might be a deeply personal decision to make. If you think for whatever reason that you don’t want to undertake shielding, we would urge you to please discuss it first with your GP or specialist, as well as any other health-related concerns you may have. 

  • What should I do if I think I should be on the NHS shielding list?

    The NHS is contacting all of those with certain medical conditions, and on certain courses of medication, who would be most at risk if they were to catch coronavirus (COVID-19). If you think you should have been contacted about this, then you need to urgently speak to your GP, who will be able to advise on the best course of action.

  • Symptoms and what to do if you develop them

    The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, above 37.8 °C and/or new and continuous cough. If you develop these symptoms, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call the NHS on 111 if you don’t have internet access. In an emergency, call 999.

    If you need to go to hospital as a result of catching coronavirus, please prepare a single hospital bag.

  • What should you do if you have someone else living with you?

    There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of contracting coronavirus from people you live with; 

    • Aim to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from people, even at home, and encourage them to sleep in a different bed where possible.
    • Make sure you use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying yourself and for hand-hygiene purposes.
    • It is important that toilets are cleaned after use every time.
    • Consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first. 


    If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they are present. If you can, you should take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly. If you are using your own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these.

    Everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces.

  • Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

    There are general principles you should follow to help prevent the spread of airway and chest infections caused by respiratory viruses, including:

    • Wash your hands more often - with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser. Do this after you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, and after you eat or handle food
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth 
    • Avoid all contact with people who have symptoms
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home
    • How can you get assistance with foods and medicines if you are shielding?

      There are lots of groups that can help you. You are not alone. Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home.

      Hammersmith & Fulham Council has launched a new Community Aid Network (CAN) to co-ordinate an army of volunteers to help during the coronavirus crisis with everything from shopping to offering telephone support.

      You can contact CAN via email: can@lbhf.gov.uk or Freephone on 0800 145 6095 - the team are available 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 2pm on weekends.

      If you do not currently have your prescriptions collected or delivered, you can arrange this by:

      1. Asking someone who can pick up your prescription from the local pharmacy (this is the best option, if possible).
      2. Contacting your pharmacy to ask them to help you find a volunteer (who will have been ID checked) or deliver it to you.
    • What should you do if you have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

      Where possible, access medical assistance remotely – by telephone or email. However, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or specialist to ensure you continue to receive the care you need and determine which of these appointments are absolutely essential.

    • How do you look after your mental wellbeing? 

      This is a difficult time for everyone. Social isolation, reduced physical activity, unpredictability and changes in routine can all cause stress. 

      You may find your mood and feelings are affected and you may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping and you might miss being outside with other people.

      At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. There are simple things you can do that may help, to stay mentally and physically active during this time such as:

      • look for ideas of exercises you can do at home on the NHS website
      • spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to favourite radio programmes or watching TV
      • try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs
      • loved ones can help support you - draw on your friends, family and other networks if you need help or just want to talk about how you are feeling
      • try spending time with the windows open to let in the fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight, or get out into any private space, keeping at least 2 metres away from your neighbours and household members if you are sitting on your doorstep


      Constantly watching the news can make you feel more worried. If you think it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limit this to a couple of times a day.

      Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to and who you get information from. Every Mind Matters provides simple tips and advice to start taking better care of your mental health.

      If you are receiving services for your mental health, learning disability or autism and are worried about the impact of isolation please contact your key worker or care coordinator or provider to review your care plan.

      If you are struggling with your mental health, please see the NHS mental health and wellbeing advice website for self-assessment, audio guides and tools that you can use. 

      • What to tell your visitors and carers?

        It’s important to tell your care providers (either the local authority or the provider you pay for yourself) that you are shielding, and agree a plan together for continuing your care.

        It’s a good idea to contact regular visitors to your home, such as friends and family, to let them know that you are shielding and that they should not visit you during this time unless they are providing essential care for you like help with washing, dressing or meals.

        If you receive essential care from friends or family members, speak to them about the extra precautions they can take to keep you safe.

        Speak to your carers about backup plans for your care in case your main carer is unwell and needs to self-isolate.

      • Advice for carers

        If you are caring for someone who has been identified by the NHS as in need of shielding due to risk of severe illness from COVID-19, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk:

        • only care that is essential should be provided
        • do not visit or provide care if you are unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care
        • wash your hands on arrival and often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
        • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
        • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
        • provide information on who they should call if they feel unwell, how to use NHS 111 online coronavirus service and leave the number for NHS 111 prominently displayed
        • find out about different sources of support that could be used and accessing further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK 
        • look after your own wellbeing and physical health during this time. 
      • Useful links and contacts

        Government support

        The government is the primary source of information on the pandemic, national measures to tackle it and support for people who need shielding, who can register for the help that they need. You will be asked for your NHS number.

        Government’s health advice: www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

        The government has also launched a free coronavirus information service on WhatsApp which you can receive by adding 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then messaging the word “hi” in a WhatsApp message to get started.

        Council support

        Hammersmith & Fulham Council has launched a new Community Aid Network (CAN) to co-ordinate an army of volunteers to help during the coronavirus crisis with everything from shopping to offering telephone support.

        You can contact CAN via email: can@lbhf.gov.uk or Freephone on 0800 145 6095 - the team are available 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 2pm on weekends.

        H&F Council’s website is regularly updated with the latest comprehensive health information, how to get in touch with a local support group and more. See www.lbhf.gov.uk/coronavirus

        The council also sends out a weekly newsletter which includes the latest information on the coronavirus outbreak, which you can subscribe to by following this link Subscribe to H&F news.

        Health support

        If you think you may have symptoms, please contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service on https://111.nhs.uk/service/COVID-19/ or call the NHS on 111 if you don’t have internet access. In an emergency, call 999.

        Mental health support

        Anxiety UK - Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
        03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
        www.anxietyuk.org.uk

        Mental Health Foundation - Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities. www.mentalhealth.org.uk

        Mind - Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
        Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
        www.mind.org.uk

        No Panic - Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
        0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm)
        www.nopanic.org.uk

        Rethink Mental Illness - Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
        0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
        www.rethink.org

        Samaritans - Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
        116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
        www.samaritans.org.uk

        SANE - Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
        SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)

        Support for older people

        The Silver Line, a helpline for older people set up by Esther Rantzen, on 0800 4 70 80 90.

        Independent Age on 0800 319 6789.

        Age UK on 0800 055 6112.

        Friends of the Elderly on 0300 332 1110 to receive a weekly or fortnightly friendship call from a volunteer who enjoys talking to older people.

        Support for carers

        Carers Network continues to support local unpaid carers over the phone with:

        • Carers assessments and reviews
        • Information and advice
        • Local service provision in response to COVID-19


        Carers Network also currently has a range of activities and groups for carers taking place online on Zoom. See the full Carers Network activities programme here.

        If you wish to update your Carer’s Emergency Contact Details or Care Plan, please get in touch with the council by calling 0208 753 4198, and choosing option 3, or by emailing: Communityresponsereablement@LBHF.gov.uk

        To refer a carer please complete this secure online form or call 020 8960 3033.

        Find out other local support that is available on Carers Network’s website

        Carers UK - support for carers on 020 7378 4999.

        Support for victims of domestic violence

        For more information about support available see Supporting domestic abuse victims during the coronavirus outbreak.

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