End of the Highest Risk List

List to close on 31 May.

The Highest Risk List – formerly known as the Shielding List - will be formally ended on 31 May, as a result of the success of the vaccination programme and the introduction of new treatments for COVID-19.

The decision has been taken following a careful review of growing clinical evidence by a team of specialist clinicians.

It shows that, for the vast majority of those on the list, the risk of hospitalisation or death from COVID-19 has been significantly reduced and is no greater than that of the general public.

For some time now, the clinical advice has been for those on the Highest Risk List to follow the same guidance as everyone else in Scotland unless specifically advised otherwise by their own GP or clinician.

The list is not being used to identify people who are eligible for vaccine prioritisation or new treatments, and the NHS will continue to be able to contact those people when needed.

Support remains in place for those who are immunosuppressed and who may still have some reduced immunity. This group are likely to need general protection from a range of infections in addition to Covid-19.

Wellbeing support is also available for those on the List, and the Scottish Government has allocated an additional £120,000 to the British Red Cross to fund their Connecting With You service to help people reconnect with activities and friends, to rebuild their confidence in going out and to help them regain a better quality of life.

The Distance Aware Scheme is in place to provide free badges and lanyards to people who wish to show others they would welcome additional space and extra care while out in public.

The Chief Medical Officer will shortly write to everyone on the list to advise them of the change, and sign-post them to ongoing support.

Dr John Harden, Deputy National Clinical Director, said:

“At the beginning of the pandemic we introduced shielding to protect the most vulnerable from a virus we knew little about. Clearly shielding did not come without impact, particularly for those who were socially isolated or feeling particularly anxious due to being labelled at ‘highest risk’.

“In March 2020, we used the information we had at that point to identify those with certain health conditions who we reasonably thought would be at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19. Thankfully, we know a lot more about the virus now. Combined with our successful vaccination programme and the availability of new treatments, means the clinical evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of people who have been on the Highest Risk List no longer need to consider themselves at any significantly higher risk.

“Support is still in place for the small number of immunosuppressed people who are unable to mount a full immune response due to their condition or ongoing treatment. We will publish separate advice for this group and have put in place an identification process to be able to rapidly generate an accurate and current list of individuals to provide additional advice to, should it be needed in future.”


The Scottish Government has produced guidance for immunosuppressed people and guidance for people previously at higher risk . An  evidence review was used to support the ending of the List.

Public Health Scotland reports from January 2021 and March 2022 both highlighted the negative impact of shielding on those asked to do so.

The Distance Aware scheme was launched by Wales’ health and care think tank The Bevan Commission in August 2020. The Scottish Government invested £55,500 in developing the scheme for a Scottish audience, including procuring and distributing badges, lanyards and promoting the scheme.

The Scottish Government is asking organisations, businesses and employers to promote this to their staff, customers and members. A toolkit is available to provide further support and information.


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