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MPs question Governmental support for stem cell transplant recipients

Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan welcomes Jessica Morden MP and Clive Betts MP's Parliamentary Questions in the last week, asking Ministers about support for stem cell transplant patients in this current phase of the pandemic.

The parliamentarians are concerned stem cell transplantation patients, who have been shown to be the most vulnerable to COVID-19, are not receiving the support they need to keep them safe.

1) Access to the furlough scheme. Shielding has been reinstated nationwide and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people are advised “not go to the workplace”. This leaves those unable to work from home vulnerable to financial hardship. The government has shied away from telling employers they must offer furlough to these patients.

2) Priority access to COVID-19 vaccination. Anthony Nolan has identified an anomaly in the prioritisation list for the COVID-19 vaccinations. At the moment non-malignant patients who received a stem cell transplant more than six months ago fall into priority level 6. Whereas patients with cancer of the blood or bone marrow at any stage of treatment and patients who have received a stem cell transplant in the last 6 months, or who are still on immunosuppressants are in priority level 4.

Clive Betts MP says: ‘Having had a stem cell transplant myself, I know that people are vulnerable and immunocompromised putting them at the highest risk of Covid-19. However, because my transplant was to treat blood cancer, I already fall into priority level 4.

‘Covid-19 has effectively placed transplant recipients’ lives on hold. Granting all these patients priority access to the vaccine is the right thing to do. Allowing access to furlough while they wait, will alleviate worry for many.

‘It’s so important that the Government provides proper protections for vulnerable patients.’

Henny Braund, Chief Executive at Anthony Nolan says: ‘The current COVID-19 vaccination priority list states non-malignant stem cell transplant patients who received their transplant more than six months ago receive less priority than other stem cell transplant patients. We believe this is wrong because these are people with a high level of vulnerability. It’s vital that Matt Hancock rectifies this anomaly. We'd also like to see family members get access to the vaccine, so they protect their loved ones.

‘It is also important for the Government to mandate employers to protect Clinically Extremely Vulnerable transplant recipients from choosing between risking their health or finances. This can easily be addressed by granting them automatic access to the furlough scheme. The consequence of stem cell transplant patients’ not receiving all the available financial support is for them and their families to risk falling into serious financial hardship.

‘We know these issues are causing considerable anxiety for our patients and we’re grateful to Jessica Morden MP and Clive Betts MP for raising them in parliament.’

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