New guidance for people who have been shielding in England and Wales has been issued by the government. ‘Clinically extremely vulnerable’ people, which includes those who have autoimmune hepatitis, those who have had a liver transplant and people with liver cancer, are now able to go outside with members of their household, or members of other households if they live by themselves. The British Liver Trust is also advising that everyone with decompensated liver disease follows shielding advice.
The guidance, which only applies to patients living in England and Wales, is as follows:
- If you live with others you can go outside with members of your household
- If you live alone, you can meet with one other person from another household.
- It is strongly advised that it is the same person each time.
- There is no limit to the amount of time you spend outdoors as long as you stay 2 metres away from everyone, wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds and avoid crowded places.
The new guidance in England and Wales for shielded patients follows the announcement on 31st May 2020 from Dr Jenny Harries, senior medical advisor to the government, that the risk of catching COVID-19 for the general public, when outside, is ‘very low’ and in general, the risk of catching the virus has gone from 1 in 40 to 1 in 1000.
Read more about England’s guidance
Read more about Wales guidance
The Northern Ireland website guidance points to the shielding guidance for England. Read more: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/guidance-shielding-extremely-vulnerable-people
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on 1st June 2020 that Scotland will not ease shielding guidance for the time being. Read more: https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-shielding/pages/overview/
British Liver Trust response to ease in lockdown for shielded patients
Pamela Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust, said: “I’m sure for thousands of liver patients, who have been shielding for 12 weeks, this is welcome news. However, we also know that many patients are still anxious about the risks and to understand what will happen in the longer term. We will continue to call for an urgent review and clearer evidence-based information for all vulnerable patients.
“We advise anyone who is following this new piece of advice to strictly adhere to social distancing measures and avoid busy areas at all times. "
The British Liver Trust is also calling for greater clarity as to who should be shielding and more scientific evidence to back up change in guidance. Read more here: https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/british-liver-trust-calls-for-clearer-shielding-guidance-for-extremely-vulnerable-liver-patients/
Accessing NHS Services
If you need to access NHS services, it is safe to do so and hospitals and emergency care are open for you. You should continue to be offered any regular checks and treatments that you need.
Many hospitals are able to look after you using digital solutions. If you do need to be seen in person, they will ensure that you are seen in infection-controlled settings. Make sure that you let them know that you are shielding in advance so that appropriate adjustments can be made.