The latest technology analyses a combination of risk factors based on medical records. They include health and personal factors, such as age, ethnicity, BMI and deprivation levels, as well as certain medical conditions and treatments, to assess whether somebody may be more vulnerable than was previously understood.
Those newly identified by their doctors or consultants as being clinically extremely vulnerable will now be asked to stay at home as much as possible. Except to go outdoors for exercise or to attend health appointments in the same way as people who have been shielding throughout the current lockdown.
In addition, residents new to shielding who have not already been offered the COVID-19 vaccination will now be prioritised to receive a vaccine as part of the current vaccination cohorts.
Cornwall Council is working with partners in the health and voluntary sector to continue to support all clinically extremely vulnerable residents in accessing food, essential supplies and wellbeing advice during the lockdown.
Sally Hawken, Cornwall’s cabinet member for children, wellbeing and public health, said: “If you have just been added to the shielding list you may be wondering why you have only now been identified as being especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Scientists now understand a lot more about how the virus affects people. New research commissioned by the chief medical officer has recently enabled health professionals to identify people who may be at increased risk of becoming seriously unwell from coronavirus, because of a combination of their individual characteristics and their underlying health conditions.
“Most importantly, this new research helps clinicians provide vaccination more quickly to those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable. This ensures they can benefit from additional advice and support.”
Dr Iain Chorlton, GP and chairman of NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The clinically extremely vulnerable group includes those previously told to shield because of reduced immune systems, such as due to organ transplants, or those with specific cancers or severe respiratory conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, chronic kidney disease (stage 5), those undergoing dialysis, and adults with Down’s Syndrome. It also takes into account a variety of factors including age, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), other health conditions and also postcode.
“People who are within the clinically extremely vulnerable group will have received a letter previously or should expect one to arrive shortly.
“It is really important that when a person within the expanded clinically extremely vulnerable group is invited to book an appointment for their COVID-19 vaccination by their GP or through the national booking service that they do so and attend.”
Rob Rotchell, Cornwall’s cabinet member for adults, said: “Whether you have been shielding before or have just been asked to start shielding, please be assured that together with NHS Kernow and Volunteer Cornwall we are continuing to support our vulnerable adults who have had their lives affected so seriously by the pandemic.
“Please do get in touch with us if you need help with food, prescriptions or if you are feeling anxious and needing mental health support, and we will do all we can to help.”
Ian Jones, chief executive of Volunteer Cornwall, said: “One of the most heart-warming things about the last 12 months is the way that communities have reached out and thrown their arms around their most vulnerable members. People have shown they are willing to offer one of their most precious assets, their time, to help others in need and that gives me great hope for the future.”
All clinically extremely vulnerable residents have now been advised to stay at home until 31 March.
They have been asked to work from home if possible and if they cannot work from home, they should not attend work. They may be eligible for statutory sick pay, employment and support allowance, universal credit or furlough through the coronavirus job retention scheme.
Those shielding are also asked to avoid all non-essential travel – they should continue to travel to hospital and GP appointments unless told otherwise by their doctor. They are strongly advised not to go to any shops or to pharmacies.
Those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group are eligible for free medicines delivery from community pharmacies during this period if friends and family are not able to collect prescriptions or medicines on their behalf. Prescriptions should continue to be ordered from the GP as normal, either electronically or via telephone.
Supermarkets are continuing to provide priority delivery slots to vulnerable individuals and if residents need help to get online, for example to register for an online supermarket account, they can ring Cornwall Council’s support line for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable on 0300 1231118 or contact Volunteer Cornwall.
Volunteer Cornwall can also help collect and deliver food shopping and medical prescriptions, as well as provide befriending support and volunteers who can help with other low level needs.
Emergency food support is available at food banks throughout Cornwall. An interactive Help with Food map has been created in partnership with community organisations and is online at Let’s Talk Cornwall.
Health services remain available and residents with a complex need or medical question should contact their GP or health consultant.
Anyone who may be worried about their own or someone else’s mental health can contact 0800 038 5300 for help and support.
Guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 has been updated.