The ongoing coronavirus outbreak is an understandable concern for all of us and people with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of experiencing more serious complications from it.
Following information from UK Government and the publication of NICE guidelines, we have updated our advice on the coronavirus for people who have received or are waiting to receive a stem cell transplant to treat their blood cancer or blood disorder. We are working alongside other cancer charities, medical experts and the NHS to make sure this advice is updated as the situation develops.
You are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) if you:
If you fall into that high risk category, you have been advised to follow rigorous ‘shielding’ measures in order to keep yourself safe. You are advised to stay at home and avoid any face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks.
If you think you have developed any symptoms of coronavirus such as a new, continuous cough or fever, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.
If you are in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you should have received a letter and possibly a text from the NHS within the past week. If you are in the high risk category and have not received a letter, you should contact your GP or transplant team.
We are aware that some people in England have received a text even though they are not in the high risk category. If this is the case, please continue to follow the advice from your own transplant team, who have the fullest understanding of your medical history and your requirements during this time.
We realise that for many people this guidance will be very difficult to follow but please adhere to it as closely as you are able to. Your healthcare team will be able to help answer any specific questions you have around this, you can call our helpline on 0303 303 0303 or email us: email@example.com
Everybody not considered to be at high-risk should be avoiding all unnecessary contact with other people and stay at home whenever possible. You should avoid gatherings of more than two people you do not live with and limit going outside to shopping for essential food items and one daily exercise activity.
Public Health England has published guidance on how people can safely distance themselves from other people and how households can cope with a possible coronavirus infection. We advise you follow this guidance no matter where you live in the UK.
Keep in touch with your medical team too as they may want to change the way they offer their follow-up appointments. This will be to limit the number of times you have to physically attend the hospital and so you can minimise your travel, particularly on public transport.
If you have any specific questions about how coronavirus could affect your own situation, please contact someone from your medical team. They will be happy to talk to you about any concerns you may have.
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus the advice to everyone, to protect yourself and others, is to:
Your transplant team are likely to change how they manage your medical appointments. Some consultations will be carried out either over the phone or by video. This will limit the amount of face-to-face contact needed and reduce your need to travel on public transport.
If you do need to attend in person, steps will be put in place to reduce the time spent in waiting rooms. Everyone will be asked to attend appointments without family members or carers if possible.
Where possible you should also try to avoid picking up your prescriptions in person. This can be done by ordering through online home delivery services, asking for help from family and friends or NHS volunteer services.
The stem cell transplant process significantly weakens the immune system, making patients more vulnerable to contracting infections including coronavirus.
The unprecedented scale of the coronavirus outbreak is also causing many challenges for the NHS and every precaution is being taken to ensure it can cope with the demand.
This means some stem cell transplants may be delayed to help protect patients and to enable vital NHS resources to be redirected to where they are most needed. Only patients who are at a low risk, where their condition can be managed by other means in the short term, will be affected.
This is likely to include a three month delay for:
Your individual situation will be assessed by your transplant team, who will be able to discuss your options with you in detail. They will only delay your transplant if it will not have a significant effect on your quality of life. Any decision will also be given to you in writing.
At Anthony Nolan, we are working closely with every transplant centre in the UK and our suppliers to minimise the disruption coronavirus may cause. Where possible, we are searching for multiple potential stem cell donors, including those from umbilical cord stem cells, and making sure we can still import donated cells from across the world. This will allow us to continue our life-saving work.
If you have any specific concerns, please contact your transplant centre. They will be in the best position to advise based on your medical condition, where your stem cells are coming from and the impact of coronavirus on local hospitals.
More information about coronavirus and how to reduce the risk of infection is available from the NHS website. You can also contact the Anthony Nolan Patient Services team on 0303 303 0303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Anthony Nolan Patient Services team is working hard to make sure we can still provide support to patients and families.