Today (Monday 22 June) the UK Government set out a roadmap for the future of shielding for people in England classed as clinically extremely vulnerable (the shielding population) during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Patients who have received, and are in need of, stem cell transplants fall into this category.
The previous guidance advised the shielding population to stay at home as much as possible, maintain strict social distancing while outdoors, and only spend time with members of their own household or one other person if they live alone.
Today’s announcement stated that the shielding guidance will be relaxed in stages, subject to clinical evidence. From Monday 6 July, people will be allowed to meet in a group of up to six people outdoors and individuals living alone can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. From Saturday 1 August, the shielding guidance will be ‘paused’ indefinitely, with people advised to follow strict social distancing measures. Food and medicine boxes facilitated by the National Shielding Service will stop at this point.
The Government said that all patients should receive a letter with details of the new guidance.
In response to the announcement, Henny Braund, Chief Executive at Anthony Nolan says: ‘While it is welcome that the UK Government has set out the way forward for people shielding in England, confusion remains and this continues to be an uncertain time for stem cell transplant patients.
‘The full rationale for pausing the shielding guidance from Saturday 1 August is unclear, as are the circumstances under which individuals may be asked to shield again. It is important that patients have this information to help them make an informed decision about what is right for them and their families.
‘The withdrawal of Government support, specifically food and medicine boxes, is worrying. An urgent impact assessment and meaningful consultation with patients is required. The fact is that many patients, for their own safety, will be advised by their healthcare teams that they need to continue shielding beyond Saturday 1 August. It is vital that no patient goes without the protections they need.
‘Our advice for stem cell transplant patients remains the same: we strongly recommend that they speak to their healthcare team before changing their practice. We also want patients to know that Anthony Nolan is here for them. We have launched a Telephone Emotional Support service provided by Working to Wellbeing and will continue advocating for patients to ensure that they get the physical, psychological and practical support they need.’
Anthony Nolan will continue to support patients, and families, during and after the pandemic. If patients wish to share their experiences and views, we encourage them to respond to our new patient survey, launched today: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/ANCVD2/