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Dermatology Advice Regarding Self-Isolation and Immunosuppressed Patients: Adults, Paediatrics and Young People

This page relates specifically to issues concerning high-risk and immunosupressed patients. For all the BAD COVID-19 advice, please click here.

Dermatology Update on the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) and Clinically Vulnerable patients (previously those who were shielding):

The RCP has been working with the BAD and other specialist societies to update government, the NHS and employers regarding the challenges faced by doctors and patients in identifying and reducing the risks associated with COVID-19, especially for those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable ("high risk"; "highest risk" in Scotland). General recommendations have been agreed across specialties to support these patients and the doctors treating them, and these are shared with the CMO and subject to ongoing review.

The dermatology-specific recommendations can be found here. (August 2020)

The RCP document can be found here. (August 2020)

Risk Stratification Grid:

Dermatology departments need to identify those patients for whom, due to their disease and treatment, Covid-19 poses a higher risk. This grid has been created in conjunction with other medical specialties to avoid confusion where patients are being treated with the same drug for a number of different conditions. Please also refer to the FAQs further down thids page.

You can view the grid here (N.B. opens as a separate PDF document).

Further documents:

1. Caring for people at highest risk during Covid-19 incident: Letter from Chief Nursing Officer, England and National Medical Director, NHS England to all NHS Medical Directors / Nursing Directors

2. Management and shielding of patients who are at the highest risk during Covid-19 incident: Letter from Chief Medical Officer for England and National Medical Director, NHS England. Annex 3 on page 10 contains a copy of the letter sent to patients by the NHS/GPs. (Please also see FAQs below)

3. BAD letter to Specialist Societies re. identifying high-risk patients - Covid-19

4. Template letter to high-risk dermatology patients Provided by the CMO. (Please also see FAQs below*)

5. Template letter to patients on azathioprine

6. Guy's and St Thomas': Safe Prescribing and Monitoring Protocol for Systemic immunomodulatory therapies for immune-mediated inflammatory skin disease in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19)Please note that this is a suggested framework which was developed for use at Guy's and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (approved locally on 6th April 2020) as an interim measure to support clinicians reconfiguring services in the context of COVID-19.

7. St. John’s Institute of Dermatology's FAQs about immunosuppressive treatments – scroll down to “Immunosuppressants and medication”.

8. NHSE FAQs for clinicians on caring for people at highest clinical risk during Covid-19. NHS has also produced a FAQs document for patients

9. Update on the Government's shielding policy and implications for General Practice

10. NICE COVID-19 rapid guideline: dermatological conditions treated with drugs affecting the immune response

11. NICE COVID-19 rapid guideline: children and young people who are immunocompromised

FAQs For Dermatology:

How do I select the patients who need to self-isolate?

The BAD has been working with other relevant specialties at the RCP to provide a grid for each specialty which facilitates patient selection.

The link for this can be found at the top of this page and should be read in conjunction with the RCP grid for other specialties ( We are aware that some of our patients are under care from more than one medical specialty which is why these grids have been harmonised as much as possible to avoid confusion.  We realise that there are some differences between the grids, which is due to differences in how drugs are used and patient groups between specialties.

How will I identify these patients in my own hospital?

The CMO has announced this national directive and advises all hospitals to make available the necessary resources to identify these patients. It is likely that lists from hospital pharmacists will be the main source of information.

Notes - paper or online - will be needed to identify the relevant co-morbidities and, as the grid suggests, this will sometimes require clinical judgement on a case-by-case basis. Just make the best informed clinical decision you can and, if necessary, discuss with your colleagues locally.

What is the timeframe for action?

No definite timeframe has been set yet.  The first step is to produce a list of patients, along with their NHS numbers, who need to be advised to self-isolate for 3 months. We, as clinicians, are expected to start this process immediately. The BAD advises that the list of numbers should be completed by Friday 27th March, as this may be required by the NHS to identify patients.

How will the patients be notified?*

Patients identified using the above process should be notified by dermatology departments by sending them the “template letter to high-risk dermatology patients” available on the link above. We understand that some hospitals are organising this centrally, but in others there is no central process and this is being left to individual departments.

How do I interpret the Dermatology Grid?

There are three columns:

  1. Column 1 describes those who definitely need to self-isolate.
  2. Column 2 describes those who may need to self-isolate depending on the clinical circumstances (the patient, disease and drug being used).  This will require clinical judgement.
  3. Column 3 describes systemic agents used in dermatology where self-isolation is not considered necessary (this is not a comprehensive list but includes treatments that we have had queries about from clinicians and patients).

Examples of the type of patient who would NOT be advised to self-isolate are:

  1. A patient with hidradenitis on adalimumab who is 45 and has none of the described co-morbidities.
  2. A patient who is 50 on methotrexate up to 25mg per week and adalimumab.
  3. A patient who is 57 on hydroxychloroquine and mycophenolate mofetil and no other co-morbidities.

Examples of the type of patient who WOULD be advised to self isolate

  1. Patient on any single agent biologic at a standard dose who is >70 years.
  2. Patient on any single agent biologic at a standard dose who is on medication for hypertension or diabetes or asthma or IHD or who is pregnant.
  3. Patient on a single agent biologic at a standard dose with any renal impairment.
  4. Patient on a single agent biologic agent at a standard dose and up to 25mg weekly of methotrexate who develops any medical problems described in the above three points

What happens if my patient wishes to pause therapy?

To date, the BAD is not aware of any good evidence that people taking drugs that target the immune system are at a greater risk of getting COVID-19 or of having a more severe form of the illness to inform this decision.

When providing advice take the following into consideration:

The views and concerns of the patient

The baseline risk of the person for developing significant COVID infection (for example age >70, co-morbidities)

The need for the drug (or drugs) and likely outcome if stopped (including how easily the treatment could be re-started, alternative options that may be acceptable to the person in this context e.g. topicals, and the clinical impact of a disease flare)

What does this mean in terms of  future treatment choices for my patients?

Whenever possible:

Avoid starting immunosuppressive agents, particularly in vulnerable patients

Avoid using more than one immunosuppressive agent

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