UK government adopts RCPCH guidance on children and shielding

Our guidance on shielding for children and young people with regard to COVID-19 has been formally adopted by the UK government.

The UK government has today adopted RCPCH guidance which recommends that most children and young people do not need to shield.

According to the RCPCH guidance, the majority of children with conditions including asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and kidney disease do not need to continue to shield and can, for example, return to school as it reopens. This includes many children with conditions such as cerebral palsy and scoliosis, for whom the benefits of school - in terms of access to therapies and developmental support - outweigh the risk of infection.

The guidance sets out two groups of shielded patients. Patients in Group A should continue to shield. Patients in Group B will require a case-by-case discussion to decide whether, on the balance of risks, a child should be advised to continue to shield. Children who are under the care of a GP rather than a paediatric specialist do not need to shield.

Dr Mike Linney, Registrar at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:

Lock down has been tough on children generally, but especially for those who have been shielding. It’s been a long haul for thousands of families, and we hope this announcement brings some relief. Fortunately, children are less affected by COVID-19. This appears to be the case not just in the UK but world-wide. However, they have suffered from the social effects of lock down, isolation, and school closures.

We know that many families who have been shielding will have concerns. The important point of this guidance is that paediatricians and specialist doctors now have better information to discuss shielding with patients and their families. It is very unlikely that children under the sole care of a GP need to continue shielding, but if you are worried, seek reassurance. 

Should we face a second wave, this guidance will allow us to make better decisions about who needs to shield. It was right to be cautious when we knew so little about the virus, but we now have a lot of evidence to guide us. We can be confident that the vast majority of children and young people don't need to shield.

Patients should only be removed from the shielding patient list by their GP or specialist doctor following consultation with the child and their family.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said:

I do not underestimate the difficultly of staying indoors for such a long time and I admire the dedication of children and their loved ones.

As our understanding of this novel virus has developed, new evidence shows most children and young people are at low risk of serious illness and no longer need to shield.

All decisions on whether to stop shielding or carry on doing so should be based on a consultation with your child’s doctor or specialist.

The RCPCH has worked with specialists to define who needs to carry on shielding and continues to provide paediatricians with advice and guidance on who is clinically extremely vulnerable.