Why is this important and what is the need or knowledge gap?
The shielding initiative, introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic across the UK, was intended to protect those thought to be at highest risk of serious harm should they catch COVID-19 because of preconditions such as cancer or medications that they were taking. However, no evidence is available on the effectiveness of shielding regarding the reduction of COVID-19 infections, serious illness and deaths, its effects on immunity, its potential harms such as isolation, anxiety, depression or delayed care for serious health problems or its cost-effectiveness.
What did we do and who is involved?
The study is funded through the COVID-19 National Core Studies – Immunity Programme in collaboration with Birmingham University.
Alongside researchers from PRIME and SAIL who examine the COVID-19-related health outcomes of patients on the shielding list compared to the general public, HCEC researchers estimate the implementation cost of the shielding initiative to the Welsh public sector in stage 1 of the study and investigate the impact of shielding on subsequent health and care resource use in stage 2.
What will change as a result of the outputs?
The shielding initiative is unique to the UK and was implemented without prior evidence regarding its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. HCEC supports the generation of crucial evidence evaluating the benefits and harms of shielding to inform future decisions on whether shielding should be implemented during health emergencies.
This will inform future national and international public health policies on shielding in future health emergencies. It is expected that the results will inform evidence-based recommendations regarding the use of shielding as an emergency measure and will shape national guidance on the use of shielding in future emergencies based on its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness during COVID-19.