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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Shielded patients list

NHS Digital has published the shielded patients list (SPL), which is enabling partner organisations across government to support and protect those who need shielding at this time.


The shielded patients list (SPL) is made up of a clinical algorithm, a publication, and our dissemination of the data.

process diagram of shielded patients list

Guidance for patients

If you have been identified as needing shielding you will receive a letter from your GP, hospital or (if identified nationally) from our national helpline. Where we hold a mobile number we will also send you a series of SMS text messages. These will come from either 07307 810357 or UK_Gov. If you are unclear why you have received a letter, please contact your GP or hospital consultant.

You should register yourself on the website if you need extra help and support. If you do not register on the website, then you will be contacted by the shielding helpline to confirm that you do not need support. The call will be made from 0333 3050466. It is not a live telephone line, but if you call it you will get the following recorded message: “You were called today by the Shielding Helpline, sorry that we missed you, there is no need to call us back as we will try again soon. Thank you, goodbye”.

We are unable to provide a replacement letter if one is lost. If you require a new letter, please contact your GP or hospital consultant who can issue you with a new one.

Further information for patients is published on and the NHS England website.

I have not received a text or letter but I think I should be in the shielded patient list

Letters are being being sent out to the additional patients identified in the April run of the algorithm. We also expect doctors and hospitals to add more patients to the list as we have not been able to identify everyone. You should continue to follow advice for shielded patients on

If you have not received a letter, but think you should be in the shielded patients list, you should speak to your GP or specialist.

You should also register yourself for support on the website if you need extra help and support.

I have received a text or letter and I do not think I should be in the shielded patient list

If you are not in one of the patient groups listed above, you can ignore the communication. 

If you are unsure whether you are in one of the groups listed above contact your GP or clinical specialist for advice.

Your GP or hospital can deduct you from the list once they are satisfied you are not in a high risk group.

Risk criteria

High risk of developing complications from coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

The algorithm looks to identify:

  1. Solid organ transplant recipients.
  2. People with specific cancers:
  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
  • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
  • 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
  1. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD).
  2. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell).
  3. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  4. Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

Some specialty organisations have developed decision-support tools to help identify patients. Please note that this is guidance, and ultimately the decision to add a person to the highest clinical risk registry will be on a case by case basis. 

Moderate risk of developing complications from coronavirus (COVID-19) infection

Patients are at moderate risk of developing complications from coronavirus (COVID-19) where:

  • they meet the criteria that make them eligible for the annual flu vaccination (except those aged 65 to 69 year old inclusive who have no other qualifying conditions)
  • and they do not meet the CMO criteria for the high risk group for COVID-19

This includes the following patient groups:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (for adults this is usually anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
    • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • those with a weakened immune system caused by a medical condition or medications such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
    • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
    • those who are pregnant.


Low risk of developing complications from coronavirus (COVID-19) infection

Patients are low risk if they are not in the moderate or high risk groups. 


We have published the algorithm and detailed methodology for the shielded patients list.

Detailed algorithm methodology


This document describes the timing of the flow of information from GP and hospital systems into the NHS Shielded Patient List.

Known issues

We are aware of the following issues. If you wish us to investigate cases where the algorithm may have an issue please contact

Stable HIV

Patients with stable HIV and no other conditions have not been specifically been allocated to the shielded patient list.

We are aware that despite this they are being identified as high risk. This is likely because the code of “immunosuppressed” is used on their record and this is being used to add an entry.

Sickle cell trait

The code for sickle cell disease has been used on the patient’s record rather than sickle cell trait. This has meant patients have been over identified.

Peripheral Vascular disease (PVD)

We have received reports that PVD is being picked up. PVD is not on any of the inclusion criteria. This cannot be explained without further specific investigation.


Splenectomy is included in both the CMOs clinical criteria and the national algorithm.

Antineoplastic Chemotherapy (GP Extract)

In the GP flu cluster Antineoplastic Chemotherapy is included in the immunosuppresion category which means it is not limited by time, i.e. it includes patients who have ever had Antineoplastic Chemotherapy . We intend to limit this by time (24 months in a later release)

Corneal Implant (HES)

Following specialist input, corneal implant where patients are on systemic immunosuppression drugs will remain part of the national algorithm.


An updated NHS SPL will be generated weekly by NHS Digital, incorporating additional patient data provided by acute Trusts and GP practices.  Each list will be based on the latest version of the SPL clinical algorithm at that time.

Questions about the SPL publication process should be directed to:

Full details can be found on our timings for information flows between systems page


The shielded patient list is only sent to recipients under data sharing terms of release, and is subject to information governance controls.

We openly publish recipients of the list on our website.

Learn more about dissemination

Guidance for general practice

Guidance for hospital trusts

We are asking hospitals to identify patients who are at the highest risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), and submit their details to us, so that they can be added to the shielded patients list (SPL).

Guidance for other organisations

Shielded patient list transparency notice

Version 1: 11 April 2020. We process users' personal data in order to provide the shielded patient list for people at high clinical risk from coronavirus. This notice outlines what data is collected, how it is processed, and what we do with it.

Latest news

These are the latest news articles about the shielded patient list.

Coronavirus shielded patient list open data set, England

This data shows open data about the shielded patient list, and how it has been used.

Last edited: 21 May 2020 8:43 am