Extra 1.7 million clinically vulnerable people told to shield

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New research into Covid risk factors has led to an extension of the numbers who need to shield, with the TUC urging employers to support those who can’t work at home. 

Shielding workers are entitled to statutory sick pay, employment support allowance and universal credit if they are unable to work from home, although the TUC has called on employers to make use of the furlough scheme for anybody who is unable to work.

The expansion of the number of people asked to shield came after research funded by the National Institute of Health Research found several health and personal factors such as age, ethnicity and body mass index, when combined with certain medical conditions and treatments, heightened a person’s risk of severe Covid-19 illness.

This information was then used by the University of Oxford to develop a new risk-prediction model, which has been applied to population data held by the NHS to identify who should receive priority access to a Covid-19 vaccination and added to the shielded patient list as a precaution.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said employers should support new shielders who cannot work from home.

“This will be a very worrying time for hundreds of thousands of working people. Some will be able to work from home – but others will not. These new shielders who can’t work from home must not lose their jobs and livelihoods overnight,” she said.

“Employers must furlough new shielders who can’t work from home to keep them and their jobs safe. Ministers must publicise the option to furlough new shielders, and should consider introducing a right to be furloughed for all those who are required to shield.”

As soon as an individual is flagged as potentially clinically extremely vulnerable by the NHS risk assessment, they will be sent a letter or email outlining how they have been identified and that they are being added to the shielded patient list as a precautionary measure.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said: “This action ensures those most vulnerable to Covid-19 can benefit from both the protection that vaccines provide, and from enhanced advice, including shielding and support, if they choose it.”

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