Following the Government’s announcement on 24 March, UK advice on managing the coronavirus (COVID-19) now focuses on social distancing. The key message is “Stay at home”.
If you are affected by lung cancer, there are recommend extra measures to protect you. The government’s advice is for you to self isolate for 12 weeks, during which you should have minimal direct contact with others. This is the policy of shielding, designed to protect those most at risk from serious illness if infected by COVID-19.
We recognise these are worrying and difficult times for everyone. These recommendations mean significant changes to how people living with or caring for someone with lung cancer go about their everyday lives.
The NHS and other health and care services are working hard to provide continuing support. However, there may be an impact. These services are operating on an emergency footing.
Resources normally available to run cancer services may have to be used to provide emergency care. All services are trying to balance effectively managing your cancer care while minimising your risk of exposure to the virus. This may mean some of the tests and treatment, and their timing, may need to change.
Why is shielding being recommended?
The NHS is writing to people who are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. They are using people’s health records to identify those most at risk. People with cancer fall into this group, as do people with weakened immune or respiratory (breathing) systems because of other health conditions. Others may be considered more vulnerable because of their age.
The criteria for inclusion in the shielding category are based on evidence about how communities around the world have been exposed and reacted to COVID-19. The evidence is developing all the time.
Your shielding status does not necessarily reflect on your personal fitness, but rather it reflects general assessment of who appear to be most vulnerable based on what we know now.
If you have very recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, you may not have received a letter. You may also have received more than one copy. Due to the speed at which the NHS is trying to share this urgent message, some letters may have been received by family members of cancer patients who have died. If this has happened to you, we hope you understand this unfortunate and unavoidable situation.
Twelve weeks of self isolation is a very difficult situation for everyone affected. This measure is only being taken to ensure your wellbeing, reduce your risk of developing the virus and to protect you from unintended exposure through simply walking about your local community.
If you are in a shielding household, there is a lot of advice in the news, on social media and in local communities about how to access health, support and care services. There is also a growing network of voluntary activity that can help make sure isolating households have enough groceries and creating ways of helping people stay in touch with others.
Your mental and physical wellbeing is important. Even though you may not have the freedom to carry out your normal way of life, there are many ways you can keep yourself well and occupied.