Guidance for GPs - patients with certain cancers and most at risk


The Government has published Guidance for people most at risk of severe illness requiring hospitalisation if they catch coronavirus. People with certain cancers and those who have received or are receiving certain treatments are among those who are most at risk and will receive information about shielding. The Q&A from cancer charities – will be useful in responding to calls and queries, particularly from patients.

Guidance has also been issued to providers who receive cancer referrals reminding them that they should continue to stay alert to any further changes in this advice following updates from Government and NHS England and NHS Improvement. Cancer alliance information on managing cancer referrals.

What are people in this group asked to do and how will they be supported?

  • People in this group are asked to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks, as set out in this PHE guidance.
  • This is a very big ask and will impact on daily living and quality of life for these people and their households. 
    • letter to patients provides information about accessing health and social care during this time and extra support available for these patients, their families and carers.
    • A Government website and call centre is being set up so that people can register for support, such as food deliveries.
  • This is about protecting people from infection and supporting them at home - it is in no way linked to prioritisation for ventilation or other treatments. People will still get the medical care they need during this period.

How are people being contacted?

  • Direct contact is being made with around 1.5million NHS patients, including up to 200 000 cancer patients.
  • From Tuesday 24 March, people will have received a letter from their GP or hospital team with advice and information about what to do during this time and where to access support.
  • Text messages will also be sent out during the week, reiterating the advice and signposting to sources of support.
  • Patients’ GPs and hospital teams have been notified which of their patients have received a letter and have been asked to review ongoing care arrangements for these patients.
  • For cancer patients, Trusts have been asked to carefully review their patient lists and send the letter to any patients who are at highest risk, as some who started treatment most recently will not have been included on the central data list. This may mean some patients receive the letter twice - this is preferable to anyone missing out on the information.
  • If someone is within the cohort but has not received a letter by 30 March, they should contact their GP or hospital team.

What about other cancer patients and those who have had cancer in the past?

  • The criteria for cancer patients were carefully defined, based on those with greatest clinical risk. Some people successfully treated some time ago and now free of disease may not need to follow the shielding advice, but may still receive a letter.
  • Some cancer patients may receive the information because they have other conditions that place them in the highest risk cohort.
  • If anyone is unsure of their risk and what measures they should be taking, they should be encouraged to speak with their hospital specialist. If this is not possible, they should contact their GP.

Please contact england.cancerpolicy@nhs.net stating COVID-19 QUERY in the subject line if you have any further questions.