Public Health Scotland (PHS) has today published an evaluation of the Scottish Government shielding programme. It shows that the programme made a difference, and that there lessons to be learnt for future support for people at risk.
Shielding was introduced by the Scottish Government in mid-March 2020 to protect those people at the highest risk of COVID-19. The shielding programme provided people with advice and guidance and with the support necessary to enable them to shield. PHS evaluated the shielding programme at the request of the Scottish Government.
The evaluation found clear evidence that the shielding advice changed people’s behaviour and that the shielding support addressed real need. It also found that the shielding guidance was neither necessary nor sufficient to change behaviour in all instances. For example, shielding support did not address all needs such as the need to move around due to caring responsibilities. The evaluation also found that the programme correctly targeted people at higher clinical risk of negative COVID-19 outcomes, but that some others, not included on the shielding list, were also at higher risk. It was not possible to assess whether or not shielding had a protective effect over and above population-wide restrictions.
The principle of protecting those at higher risk of infection remains important. Planning for future programmes would benefit from lessons learnt so far. This includes consideration of opportunities for person-centred informed decision-making and how different risk factors combine to determine individual risk.
Claire Sweeney, Director of Place and Wellbeing for PHS said:
"Shielding was a major exercise, involving collaboration across a range of partners, including the Scottish Government, local health boards, local authorities, NHS Education for Scotland and PHS. Each playing their part in protecting the health of the people most a risk.
"The shielding programme has had an impact and the lessons learned so far provide crucial information to help plan support in the future".