Leading doctors have expressed concern about the “pause” of the shielding programme to protect vulnerable people from Covid-19.
People deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable” were asked to shield at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now shielding instructions have been paused, people who spent weeks isolated from society are returning to work, school and other activities.
A group of leading medical organisations have raised concerns about patients unable to work from home who have lost income protection.
It is incredibly important that clinically vulnerable people continue to receive appropriate advice and care for the underlying conditions that have rendered them vulnerable in the first place, including having access to the flu vaccinationProfessor Donal O’Donoghue, Royal College of Physicians
A statement signed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and charity National Voices, said the pause has led to challenges for doctors and patients.
They said that while many people who were shielding will be glad to return to work, doctors cannot ignore anxieties some patients are facing.
Those who are very concerned about their risk should still be supported, they said.
The organisations have called for arrangements so employees deemed by clinicians to be at very high risk do not have to return to work if they cannot work from home.
There should also be additional risk assessments for those happy to return to work, and more information for doctors so they can support vulnerable patients with the most up-to-date information, among other measures, the groups said.
Professor Donal O’Donoghue, Royal College of Physicians registrar, said: “Official shielding advice may have ended, but we cannot assume that patients who were previously shielding now no longer need protection from Covid-19.
“It is incredibly important that clinically vulnerable people continue to receive appropriate advice and care for the underlying conditions that have rendered them vulnerable in the first place, including having access to the flu vaccination.
“The Government must ensure that clinicians have the latest health advice so that they can effectively support their patients in making decisions about how to best protect themselves from the virus going forward.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We know it has been a challenging time for people shielding and their families and we have been doing everything we can to support them throughout this pandemic.
“Shielding for the clinically extremely vulnerable has been paused since the start of the month in most of the country as average incidence rates remain sufficiently low.
“But it is important our response remains proportionate, and shielding is advised in specific areas of the country where prevalence of the virus is higher.”