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Webchat with Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, on shielding children, Wednesday at 9.30am

57 replies

BojanaMumsnet · 07/07/2020 16:21


We’re pleased to announce a short webchat with Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, at 9.30am tomorrow (Wednesday 8 July) and for half an hour only.

This webchat is aimed at parents of shielded children - apologies for the narrower remit of this webchat, but the aim is to answer questions around this specific policy announcement, and we only have 30 minutes of Dr Harries’ time because of her considerable commitments elsewhere.

On Monday, the government confirmed that the majority of children currently considered extremely clinical vulnerable to Covid-19 will be able to be removed from the shielded patient list.

Children will only be removed from the shielded patient list by their GP or specialist doctor following consultation with the child and their family. Specialists and GPs will be asked to contact children and their families to discuss this over the summer, so families do not need to take any immediate action.

The latest guidance for families is in line with the recommendations from the RCPCH and is as follows:

  • A small group of children who receive specialist care in hospitals may need to carry on shielding following a consultation with their doctor. This includes those receiving cancer care or those at risk of severe infection due to an immunodeficiency.
  • Most other children who were initially identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be considered at highest risk. In particular, children and young people who are cared for just by their GP are very unlikely to need to continue to shield in the long-term. This includes children with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and kidney disease

Jenny Harries was appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England in July 2019, taking on a broad portfolio including the health service and commissioning support. Jenny’s previous roles include: PHE Deputy Medical Director, PHE Executive Lead for specialised commissioning and Welsh National Health and Healthcare Director. Alongside these roles, Jenny has been a member of the Welsh Medicines Committee and the Clinical Priorities Advisory Group. Jenny has an extensive clinical and public health background (BSc (Hons) Pharmacology; MPH; FFPH) and her work has extended overseas as far afield as New Zealand, Pakistan and Kenya. She was awarded an OBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours List for services to Public Health. She advises the government on its response to coronavirus.

As always, please remember our guidelines - one question per user, follow-ups only if there’s time and most questions have been answered, and please keep it civil. Also if one topic is dominating a thread (other than shielded children, in this case), mods might request that people don't continue to post what's effectively the same question or point. (We may suspend the accounts of anyone who continues after we've posted to ask people to stop, so please take note.) Rest assured we will ALWAYS let the guest know that it's an area of concern to multiple users and will encourage them to engage with those questions.

Many thanks,
Webchat with Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, on shielding children, Wednesday at 9.30am
BecCliff · 07/07/2020 17:25

Hi. I have an extremely vulnerable daughter in year1 who has been shielding. Am I safe to return to my job in a secondary school in September coming into contact with 150 different pupils a day with no PPE? My daughter may return to school in September, in a class bubble of 20.

YonBonnieBanks · 07/07/2020 17:33

I have a question about the use of face masks on trains (uk wide) and shops (scotland so far). Those with invisible disabilities WILL get challenged by bus drivers and shops, even when claiming they are exempt, as I have repeatedly over the past few months. It is not fair for disabled people to experience this, when we are already seriously discriminated against. I fear for young disabled children with invisible disabilities when they have to travel to school on the train or the bus.

Why is Matt Hancock suggesting badges? Why should we have to label ourselves? That draws dangerous comparisons! Much better to improve disability awareness and improve online delivery - the latter point is also an issue. We are losing our independence as a result of this pandemic and the face mask requirement. I have an assistance dog so its difficult enough to get into a shop without trying to prove face mask exemption.

What more will Jenny and the UK and devolved Govts do to ensure progress on disability equality does not go back many decades?

Flynnshine · 07/07/2020 17:33

Hi, I have a nine year old daughter currently on 3rd line chemotherapy for a very stubborn brain tumour. We have been shielding since mid March. Today we have received a letter to say we no longer need to shield as she is not classed as vulnerable. While I am glad I can't help but feel worried that she is still vulnerable due to her low immune system. I would desperately love for her to be able to see her grandparents but is this just too much of a risk right now? Although we don't need to shield should we still take extra precautions over the general population? Thank you in advance.

PrayingandHoping · 07/07/2020 17:34

My 8 months old baby has been shielding. We did not receive a letter but had a phone call from her consultant advising us to do so. She has Downs Syndrome, Partial AVDS and spent 5 days intubated in intensive care when 8 weeks old at RSV. Based on that she then received the RSV jab and my consultant advised shielding since March based on her overall health rather than specific condition.

However the new guidelines for only the most serious conditions make me feel more confident as she doesn't fall in any of them.

I would like to take her away for a long weekend to see her grandparents who are also shielding and live opposite end of country so cannot day trip. We feel that as neither of us have been anywhere or seen anyone it would be like one household and the risk would be minimal

Please could u advise

YonBonnieBanks · 07/07/2020 17:37

what I mean by losing our independence is that we are having to rely more and more on online services, online delivery and non disabled friends. We are becoming more isolated. the attitude however, is "tough".

Samfaz · 07/07/2020 17:40

I have a 20yr old daughter. Extremely clinically vulnerable. She has siblings. When shielding is over and we go back to the new normal. If we get a peak near us am I within my rights to keep siblings home from school to help shield her? It’s impossible to limit a normal bug in a household let alone covid.

Tashpot1 · 07/07/2020 18:10

Hi, 2 children sheilding. One endo & complex reccurant croup (airway issues rather than typical croup) and 1 with laringomalacia who suffers repeated croup episodes both viral, allergy, tiredness all triggers. Winter is hurrendous for us and they spend oct- feb frequently poorly and sometimes hospitalized and require large volumes of steroids (5-10 doses) to keep airways open. If a regional lockdown is required i feel they would need to sheild again to keep them safe and reduce risk of increased uses of steroids. Would you agree?

Kimbahs · 07/07/2020 18:14

My 9 year old son is classed as extremely clinically vulnerable due to his aortic stenosis and bicuspid valve. He will have to have an operation at some point but due to his age this is being delayed as long as possible and this is being monitored via scans at the hospital every 6-12 months. We have been told that any infection, even a tooth, could worsen his situation. Are we to now believe that this new change is not a tactic to get children back to school and that they are genuinely not at risk?

Roo26 · 07/07/2020 18:17

My daughter is 16 and underwent a heart transplant. She also has many many complex medical needs. She’s extremely vulnerable. How can you say it’s safe to stop shielding when the number of daily deaths remain high. It only takes one person with the virus to pass it onto her? Do you not feel there are certain children that should continue to shield due to them having many underline medical conditions? (My daughter hasn’t attended school for over three years due to her Medical needs.

Magaroo21 · 07/07/2020 18:49

Our son is shielding does this mean that in August he can return to preschool? He’s 3 so social distancing is difficult. I also work in the NHS do have been at home until now. Wouldn’t me commuting to London and him going to preschool massively increase the risk of him catching COVID-19. He has high blood pressure and his consultant advised we stay off until September then see what the infection rate was doing. He’s also had several surgeries for hypoplastic and underdeveloped aorta and coarctation.

Saltandvinegarchips · 07/07/2020 19:04

Diabetes has one of the highest Covid-19 mortality rates. Around a quarter of all Covid-19 related deaths. Yet the guidelines above refer to removing diabetic children from the protection of shielding. Why? Is the diabetic risk relevant only for adults? On this subject, will households with adult diabetics (parents, older siblings, etc) be allowed to keep children off school if there's a local outbreak?

nevergooogle · 07/07/2020 20:16

Hi Dr Harries,
My 15 year old son is shielding due to an acute flare up of inflammatory bowel disease and high dose steroid treatment. Tomorrow we meet with the consultants to discuss moving on to biological infusion treatment (Infliximab) which is an immunosuppressant.
This is a long term treatment option for him but I'm assuming he will be immunosuppressant and extremely vulnerable until a vaccine is created?
How will this even work? We are unable to shield him within the house (one bathroom, tiny house) is he likely to be off school until a vaccine is found? (GCSE's next year) And what about his 2 siblings? Are they to also forgo their education to protect their brothers life? Can I continue to work in my healthcare job?

What is the plan long term for those who continue to be on the extremely vulnerable list. Particularly those transitioning to adult services over the next few months?

syskywalker · 07/07/2020 20:43

And what is the scientific proof to say it’s safe? If it’s not safe for GPs or Dentists or Physio to see patients, how is it safe for children to return to school with shared facilities and crowded lunch halls?! Not to mention those that have no choice but to use public transport, they will all mix with the other children, how is that keeping them safe?! “Bubbles” are a myth and do not work to reduce infections of any kind, how is this safe to return children when health care professionals are refusing to do the same?!!!!

nether · 07/07/2020 21:11

Are children who are deshielded permanently deshielded? Or is it more a 'pause plus'?

Also, from the other way round, is it safe for a child to be at schools (mixing freely with 240 other DC, who in turn mix with siblings etc) and then return to a house where someone else is shielding, given that isolation within household containing DC doesn't work? (By shielding, I mean exceptionally medically vulnerable, whether actively shielded, or paused)

How can you reinforce the message to the general public that they need to stay 2m away from strangers? We can live with the idea that many shops and attractions need people closer together, and so we cannot go. But finding that parks, pavements and playing fields are becoming no-go areas (when we have only been outside for a few weeks) is grim

Will schools have a duty to provide online education, including full support to all GCSE and A level (and Highers, BTEC etc) options for shielded students if onsite attendance at school becomes too risky this autumn/winter? Who will be advocating for this cohort if they lose even more time in the run up to public exams?

Keaty1 · 07/07/2020 21:29

My 12yr old son and I are both shielding he has several health issues to include a rare genetic disorder,mild aspiration,recurrent protracted bronchitis and many more health issues,I myself am on long term immunosuppressant drugs so the thought of him being made to go back to school terrifies me as I don’t see how he can keep himself safe,he may have the intention to keep his distance at school but whether the other children will keep their distance from him is another thing ?! What if he was to contract COVID 19 ?! And what if he also passes it onto Me ?! And that’s just 2 of very many questions I cap doesn’t fit all and I feel that the Government are being very heavy handed in the way they are dealing with this situation. I’m not going to be putting my sons life or my life at risk.

Jenf101 · 07/07/2020 21:55

Please can Dr Jenny Harries provide evidence that demonstrates why it is safe for all children to return to school in September to full classes without social distancing. I realise "bubbles" (of classes/year groups!) and hand washing will be measures undertaken, but even if most individual children are less affected by the virus they will take it home with them and spread the virus amongst the community. The WHO recommend social distancing as one of the key measures for reducing the spread of C-19. Where is the scientific evidence please? Please can she also provide evidence that says it is safe for vulnerable children to mix in a non-socially distanced manner with either 30 or 140 children in a "bubble"? Thank you.

Chrissyk34 · 07/07/2020 22:31

Hi Jenny
Weve been shielding under my daughters GP and consultations advice even was advised to remove my 7 year old from school the week leading up to lockdown which I obviously followed .we have permanent open access to our children's ward and we see her consultation every three months this has been the same for several years my child has severe asthma but goes into respiratory distress due to serve croup . We keep dexamethasone at home which is used regularly and a nebliser and inhalers daily. Both purple inhaer and blue. And montilusk ehich weve stopped due to side effects..
We have an action plan we follow but still require hospital admissions and days of high steroids . The consultation decided a few years ago to put her to sleel to check her airways and throat structure due to the servery of her croup weve had many tests ect carried out.
ive been advised last week shes very hight risk and we will expect to have to return to sheliding with her in October (ish) time due to another expected outbreak.
I've kept my 7 years old and 6 month old in doors apart from our garden for 4 months and strictly followed all guidlines. Are we safe to relax them alittle. ????
Im so worried out of my mind about the idea of the relaxation of sheliding 😌 when we live somewhere (cornwall). That has now been opened up too the world or holiday stays..

CGB1 · 08/07/2020 00:07

What happens when a Mother is considered extremely clinical vulnerable to Covid-19 & has been shielding since March & possibly has to send 3 kids back to School in September - I am waiting for a Double Lung Transplant!!!
Nothing has been said about this! What do I do??

Emzb05 · 08/07/2020 00:22

My daughter is 12 and is on the clinically vulnerable list and we have been shielding since the kids last day at school, march 23rd. She was born premature and was in need of oxygen 24/7 until she was 5. She has scared lungs and every year we have kept her healthy and well during the winter months as we were always told that it was a bad season for for. She has had the flu vaccine every year up until 2018 when she got rushed to hospital and nearly put in an induced coma as she had pneumonia, thankfully it was only 10 days in hospital.
She is currently getting more anxious and depressed in herself and I’m increasingly worrying about her mental health. All she wants to do is see her friends and grandparents, especially cuddle her grandparents, when she hears her friends have and sees our neighbours having parties in their gardens it breaks my heart not being able to let her do so herself and seeing her get so upset with herself! When will she be able to give someone a cuddle, Is it safe to do if we only limit it to her grandparents? And allow them in our home?

ZombieFan · 08/07/2020 04:02

My child has chronic heart disease, they have been isolating for the past 3+ months. Can they go back to work in August, the workplace is doing social distancing? If they dont they face losing their job, so a big dilemma!

Thank you.

iVampire · 08/07/2020 07:27

What is the evidence on how readily mid/older teens catch the virus?

Because the schools policy seems to assume there is little chance of them transmitting it one to another, or passing it to adults they encounter in the home (and indeed elsewhere)

How many cases (nationally or globally) have there been of people with blood cancer (any age, including children) having covid? Is this number really large enough to have confidence the risks are well understood?

And Similar question for other conditions. I asked about blood cancer, not only through personal
interest, but also because it is the commonest childhood type of cancer

Are the government engaging with the major charities to ensure messages are fully understood? (From this side of the fence, the answer is no, so the question contains an implicit - why not?)

How can shielded/paused/deshielded people stay safe in a community which barely socially distances? It does seem as if we shall have to continue in home isolation because it’s unsafe to go out when people come so close. Has this difficulty ever been discussed when setting policy?

Why was ‘announcement by leak’ esp late evening ever OK’ed for such a vulnerable group?

Realise that last question is prob off-topic for your speciality, but expect you have an insight

And the flip side, what has been the most interesting part of the role you currently occupy during a pandemic?

Demogorgmum · 08/07/2020 07:31

As a mum who has watched her child fight for his life before, why should I be expected to trust the government with decisions relating to MY child's health and wellbeing? Is the need to get everyone back to school that bad that you'd risk our childrens lives?


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Samfaz · 08/07/2020 07:48

Feel exactly the same. It really hard to know what to do, as no one wants to see things like that ever again.

Mysillydog · 08/07/2020 08:05

I am on lifelong treatment for metastatic cancer, and am a shielding parent.

I have a daughter about to start to Y13. This is such an important year for her education, and I will send her back in September. But will it be safe for me if she brings covid home? What impact will returning to school have on the mental health of children who live with shielded people?

Oaksideboard · 08/07/2020 08:27

My DC is shielding due to a life-limiting condition. Pre-Covid 19, my DC didn't go to school if there were infectious diseases present (other than coughs/colds) in the class or surrounding classes due to being hospitalised with even minor illnesses. Winter, September to May, is normally a very difficult time for my DC, and DC's attendance is very low due to illness.

Therefore, how can I send my DC and sibling to school in September with confidence that my shielded DC won't get ill?

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