5th January 2021 Update
The UK is managing a significant surge in COVID-19 infection across the nation, once again putting the NHS under enormous pressure and putting people’s lives at risk. The new, more infectious variant of the virus is also spreading rapidly in the UK.
The advice now is that people considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable should once again practise shielding to reduce their risk to the virus.
If you were advised to shield last year, you may have adopted and maintained the recommended adjustments as part of your daily life. This latest development may feel a bit more manageable than the first time around, though it may still be unsettling or disappointing.
For others, the current rise in the number of people being infected with the virus may be causing you increased concern about how best to keep safe. As the virus spreads through person-to-person contact, you are recommended to shop online, greatly limit social contact (go online with video calls too if you can), wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face and wear a face mask when out of doors.
Each devolved nation has detailed information about what shielding means for you, including how to get extra care and support:
What is giving us a bit more hope now this time around, is that we now have vaccines to tackle the pandemic. The national Governments are speeding up the vaccination programmes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (link here somewhere to the vaccination page).
If you are considered extremely clinically vulnerable, and therefore at greater risk of COVID-19 infection, you should receive a letter from the NHS offering specific advice. You should stay at home as much as possible but are encouraged to go outdoors carefully to exercise or to attend health appointments.
You are strongly advised to work from home if you can. If you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work. You may be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough). The letter from the NHS is a formal shielding notification and can act as evidence for your employer to show that you cannot work outside your home until 18 January 2021, including for statutory sick pay (SSP) purposes.
You can contact your GP practice or cancer team if you are unsure if you, or someone you care for, should be considered extremely clinically vulnerable.
If you are currently receiving cancer treatment, or follow-up appointments, your hospital will be making adjustments to how they work to minimise your risk to COVID-19. Wherever possible, hospitals are now keeping separate areas as COVID low-risk areas specifically for seeing and treating patients who have cancer and other long-term health conditions. Staff are also regularly tested for COVID-19.
If you are being offered an appointment at your cancer centre or hospital and would prefer to stay at home and have a phone call or video consultation, you can ask your lung cancer team if this can be arranged.
This has been a difficult time for many people with a cancer diagnosis or caring for a family member or friend. The NHS is trying to make sure that more treatment, tests and follow-up appointments happen as planned as they have adapted to the impact of COVID-19. If you have concerns about your treatment or that of someone you care for, please contact your cancer team.
It is also important to tell your medical team if you are worried about any changes in your health. They would always prefer you to talk to them than keep quiet and worry. The NHS services in all of the devolved nations repeatedly stress the importance of people coming forward to ask about any health concerns.
Some charities and local social services are providing additional services aimed at reducing loneliness and anxiety.
You can find advice on keeping active and boosting your general wellbeing on our website or you can speak to our confidential Ask the nurse service for specific questions and advice on freephone 0800 358 7200.