GPs to contact all children on shielding lists this summer

GP practices will be asked to contact thousands of children on shielding lists over the summer to discuss ending protective measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has said.

Deputy CMO Dr Jenny Harries (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Deputy CMO Dr Jenny Harries (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said at the start of June that most children managed in primary care could be removed safely from shielding lists.

In updated guidance for patients government has confirmed that 'most children currently considered extremely clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 will be able to be removed from the shielded patient list'.

However, patients can only be removed from the list by their GP or a hospital specialist 'following consultation with the child or their family'. The DHSC has said hospital specialists and GPs 'will be asked to contact children and their families to discuss this over the summer'.

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Under RCPCH advice, only a small number of particularly vulnerable children - including those receiving cancer treatment or those for whom an immunodeficiency puts them at risk of infection - are likely to be asked to continue shielding from coronavirus.

Children with long-term conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and kidney disease are 'very unlikely to need to continue to shield in the long-term', the government says.

Deputy CMO Dr Jenny Harries said: 'I do not underestimate the difficulty of children having to stay indoors and to only have limited contact with family and friends for such a long time.

'As our understanding of this novel virus has developed, evidence shows most children and young people are at low risk of serious illness and will no longer be advised to shield after July.

GP advice

'Families who are uncertain about whether shielding is right for their child in the future will want to discuss this with their doctor, who will be best placed to determine the most appropriate care. These discussions will take place over the summer.'

RCPCH registrar Dr Mike Linney said: 'Fortunately children are less affected by COVID-19. This appears to be the case not just in the UK but worldwide. However, they have suffered from the social effects of lockdown, isolation and school closures.

'We know that many families who have been shielding will have concerns. The important point of this guidance is that paediatricians and specialist doctors now have better information to discuss shielding with patients and their families. Children under the sole care of a GP are very unlikely to need to continue shielding, but if you are worried, seek reassurance.

'Should we face a second wave, this guidance will allow us to make better decisions about who needs to shield. It was right to be cautious when we knew so little about the virus, but we now have a lot of evidence to guide us. We can be confident that the vast majority of children and young people don't need to shield.'

The plan for GPs to discuss changes to shielding with patients come after the government announced last month that restrictions for at-risk patients would be relaxed from 6 July, allowing patients who had been shielding to gather in groups and form a support 'bubble'.

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