4m vulnerable patients told to contact GP with concerns about COVID rules change

Almost 4m clinically extremely vulnerable people have been told to contact their GP for advice if they have concerns about COVID-19 restrictions being lifted next week in new government guidance.

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The updated guidance for patients on the shielding list comes into effect on 19 July when many of the current legal restrictions in place to limit the spread of the virus will be lifted, including social distancing and the mandatory wearing of face masks indoors.

It highlights that individuals who are at higher risk from COVID-19 may want to continue to take 'additional precautions' following the changes.

It advises patients that if they are concerned about their physical or mental wellbeing, or if they are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed and want more information on what it means for them to 'contact your GP practice or specialist who can provide you with support and guidance on any further measures you can take to further reduce your risk of infection'.

Shielded patient list

There are currently 3.8m people on England's shielded patient list who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 - around 6.8% of England's population.

The government's new guidance suggests that these people 'limit the close contact they have with those they do not usually meet with', meet people outside where possible and ask friends and family to take lateral flow tests before they see them. It also says people should consider whether the people they are meeting have been vaccinated.

It reminds vulnerable patients that the best way to protect themselves is by having two doses of the vaccine, although it does acknowledge there is emerging evidence that some immunocompromised and immunosuppressed people do not respond as well to the COVID-19 vaccines.

'We are continuing to work to better understand who is less well protected by the COVID-19 vaccines, and there are various studies underway that are looking at this,' the advice adds.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people have also been advised to avoid the shops at busy times of the day and that the NHS Volunteers Programme is still available if they need additional support. There is also further advice about services that can provide support to those experiencing mental ill health.

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