Chart of the week: How many people in your area are being 'shielded' from coronavirus?

Each week, we'll be taking a look at a different aspect of the Covid-19 pandemic, presenting our analysis of the data in chart form to illustrate some key issues and invite discussion. This week, Eilís Keeble and Sarah Scobie look at the variation across the country in people who have been designated as 'shielded' patients - those put at high risk from coronavirus.

Chart of the week

Published: 28/05/2020

Across England there is a four-fold variation in the proportion of ‘shielded’ patients in a local population, from 2.4% in Oxford to 9.5% in Liverpool. 

Shielded patients are identified as being at high risk of Covid-19 due to underlying health conditions, including some cancers, immune system and severe chronic illnesses. They have been advised to take extra steps to protect themselves, and can get help with shopping, medicines and essentials, so they do not need to leave home.

As core health services recommence, ensuring shielded patients can be safely cared for is a key concern for the NHS. But we need to understand better what effect it is having on individuals' wellbeing and ability to work, and whether it makes a practical difference to delivering safe and effective care and support.

Initially, 1.5 million people were expected to meet the criteria for shielding, but this has risen to 2.2 million.  Hospital and GP records were used to identify patients, but doctors can also add or remove patients based on their knowledge of an individual’s health. Patients can also request to be added.

Rates are highest in people over 70, at 13%, compared with 3% for people aged 18–69. More than half of all shielded people are aged 18–69, reflecting the larger numbers in this age group. 

There are higher rates of shielded people in rural areas, but some more urban areas also have high rates – for example around Liverpool and west London.Although this may partly be down to the higher proportions of older people and people underlying health needs in these areas, there may be local differences in how shielded patients have been identified.



  1. NHS Digital data by local authority in England: number of people on the Shielded Patient List on 15 May 2020.