Skip to main content

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 methodology and associated ruleset, a publication, and our dissemination of the data.

Guidance for patients

If you have been identified as at high risk of complications from coronavirus (COVID-19) you will receive a letter from your GP, hospital or (if identified nationally) from our national service. If you are unclear why you have received a letter, please contact your GP or hospital consultant.

You should continue to access the NHS services that you need, and you should contact the NHS if you have an urgent or emergency care need.  You can quickly and easily access a range of NHS services from homeincluding ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting your health professional through an online consultation. To find out more visit, or download the NHS App.

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.

Children and young people

Specialists in paediatric medicine have reviewed the evidence on the level of risk posed to children and young people from COVID-19. The latest evidence indicates that the risk of serious illness for most children and young people is low. Updated guidance on which paediatric patient groups should be defined as clinically extremely vulnerable has been shared with those NHS staff providing direct care for children and young people.

GPs and hospital paediatricians are reviewing those children within their care who are considered at “high risk” from COVID-19 in line with the latest evidence. They will determine whether each child’s risk status should be revised, and as appropriate discuss this with each patient before revising the patient’s risk flag.

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.

Patients are at high risk of developing complications from coronavirus (COVID-19) and should be included in the Shielded Patient List where:

  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.
  5. Adults with Down’s syndrome.
  6. Adults with kidney impairment (Stage 5 Chronic Kidney Disease).

Children and young people at “high risk” from COVID-19 will continue to be identified based on the guidance published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and are not included in the two additional conditions above.

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 detailed methodology for the shielded patients list.

This methodology is currently being revised to include the two new conditions 7 and 8 outlined in the high risk conditions table above. This will be in addition to the work that GPs and hospital specialists are already undertaking to ensure all those diagnosed with these conditions are included on the SPL.

Detailed 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 rule set may have an issue please contact

Deductions from the SPL arising from the CMO rule set

In mid-August we became aware of circa 23,000 patients records which have been removed from the NHS Shielded Patient List as they no longer meet the requirements of the national methodology, but were not removed at the request of a clinician. During September we wrote to the patients to inform them that they have been removed from the list. A small number of patients have been reinstated on the list by GPs following their removal. 

Hospital Deductions of Patients

A small number of requests by hospital Trusts to remove patients from the NHS SPL were not correctly processed. These were passed to general practice during August for review using a technical method known as an intra-systems task to ensure that the latest clinical information is used in the decision making. Following GP review, patients were removed from the NHS SPL by them adding a "low" or "moderate" risk code to a patient's record.

Missing Risk Status in GP Records

In mid-August we became aware of circa 65,000 patient records in general practice where the patient was on the NHS Shielded Patient List but there was not a similar entry on their GP record, for example if added by the national methodology. The patients had been advised they were high risk and other organisations, including the Government service, were aware. This information was added to the affected GP records by the end of September.

Stable HIV

Patients with stable HIV and no other conditions have not been specifically 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 was included in the indications for identifying people who may be clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID19 as a precautionary measure in England, based on the available evidence and expert advice taken at the time.  Given emerging evidence and the improving epidemiology, the Government’s Shielding policy is currently under review.  

While this is underway the Government advice, available on GOV.UK, is that all people who have been added to the shielded patient list continue to follow the shielding measures. Anybody who is unsure about whether they should follow this guidance should contact their GP or hospital specialist to discuss their individual circumstances.  Further guidance will be issued by the Government when the shielding policy review is completed. Further information is available.

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 methodology.

Incorrect category selected by Trust

A small number of additions made by Trusts are for the category “Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired” where this is not possible (e.g. aged over 70). We have contacted the Trusts to make them aware of the issue. GPs should delete the code or mark it in error and add a new high-risk code.

Risk of exposure to communicable disease Flag

At the start of the NHS Shielded Patient List, GP IT systems used the “Risk of exposure to communicable disease (situation))” flag whilst the correct SNOMED CT codes were being added. Patients who have been flagged with a communicable disease during this period (e.g. scarlet fever) will also have been added to the NHS Shielded Patient List.

Deceased patients

Some shielding patients who have sadly died may receive a letter about the changes to shielding policy guidance. This is because there are a few days delay between the list being generated and the letter being printed, which means that letters may be sent using slightly out of date information. We apologise if this has caused distress to any loved ones.

Overlapping communications about shielding

Some patients may receive two letters about shielding – one to advise them about the new guidance and another to advise them that because their condition has changed or their doctor has evaluated them as not needing to be on the shielded patient list, they have been removed from the list. This is because we regularly update the list to ensure that people are added or removed from the list by doctors as their clinical circumstances change or evidence changes. We will continue to keep the Shielded Patient List up to date throughout the lifetime of the pandemic, so even though the guidance has changed, patients may still receive a letter to say they have been added to, or removed from, the list.

Incorrect tier 4 emails

On 21 December 2020, clinically extremely vulnerable patients outside the first set of tier 4 areas incorrectly received emails informing them that they needed to shield. On 22 December 2020, NHS Digital was informed and issued a retraction email to those affected. A small number of clinically extremely vulnerable patients will incorrectly receive letters for the same reason.

Down’s syndrome

We have been notified of a small number of patients who have been incorrectly added to the NHS Shielded Patient List due to their record including a code for Down’s syndrome. This has occurred for patients where a code has been added in the GP system and subsequently marked in error. When patients were added to the list for Down’s syndrome the fact that the code was in error was not followed.

Patients can ask to be removed from the list immediately by contacting their GP practice. NHS Digital is working to identify the patients affected from our data and will then write to them explaining what has occurred. 


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 methodology 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). We are also asking hospitals to review the SPL extracts we provide to determine how changes to shielding status affect those patients in their care.

Guidance for local authorities

Guidance for other organisations

Easy read guidance for patients

Shielded patient list transparency notice

Version 3: 30 November 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.

Tracking healthcare activity and outcomes for Shielded Patients, England

This publication considers data relating to emergency admissions, mortality and positive COVID-19 tests for a subset of patients on the English SPL compared with an age-matched sample of the general population. The open data file includes the underlying counts and rates to allow for analysis, modelling and planning to take place to aid the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last edited: 15 January 2021 4:34 pm