A group of leading healthcare charities including Kidney Care UK are warning that millions of vulnerable and extremely vulnerable people are getting mixed and confused messages about the easing of shielding measures potentially putting their health and safety at serious risk.
Charities including Macmillan Cancer Support; British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK; MS Society; National Voices; Versus Arthritis; Kidney Care UK and Cystic Fibrosis Trust are publishing an open letter today calling for UK Governments to publish clear, consistent advice on ‘shielding’ measures for ‘extremely vulnerable’ people to ensure they protect themselves and can access support as lockdown eases.
They are also calling for clear guidance for the wider group of vulnerable people who have not been asked to ‘shield’ but will be at greater risk as lockdown is lifted and they make decisions on whether they and members of their household leave home, go to work or school.
The UK government has set out a detailed national roadmap in May for other areas of society such as schools, businesses and public spaces, which the Prime Minister updated yesterday (28 May) with a further easing of lockdown. But those in the clinically ‘extremely vulnerable’ cohort who had been advised shield themselves in March have simply been told to ‘continue to do so’ .
As millions face months more of total lockdown because of their extreme vulnerability, only a top line commitment has been made to look at how to ‘better support’ them ‘soon’ .
29-year-old Sarah Davis is a freelance artist and sculptor and lives in London. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2017 and had to have a stem cell transplant in 2018. She says:
“The confusion and uncertainty surrounding those of us who are shielding is causing me a lot of anxiety. I feel like the easing of lockdown for the many has left vulnerable people behind. A more inclusive approach to lockdown easing would feel a lot fairer. We have had no new information in weeks. I feel stuck and isolated, unable to work in my art studio or move to a new house as planned. Having been ill with cancer in the past, I do have coping mechanisms, but it is still a very triggering experience - to be locked away again and not know when it will all end.”
Fiona Loud, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK, said:
“As we rapidly approach the end of the initial 12 weeks that people were advised they should be shielding for it is vital that the needs and concerns of kidney patients must be taken into account. Many feel that in their case it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and so we need to make sure these individuals are not forgotten as lockdown eases for the rest of the population. We need a practical, personalised and safe approach for everyone as we begin a return to normality.”
Steven McIntosh, Director of Policy, Campaigns & Influencing at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“The last few months have shown that clear, consistent, well-communicated advice on lockdown is vital for the public. Those who are most vulnerable and often most isolated cannot be forgotten or left behind whilst detailed lockdown plans are announced for the rest of society. Governments must set out guidance and support for people living with conditions like cancer, who face difficulties in accessing food and medicine, are making difficult decisions about returning to work, or, for the most at risk, facing long-term protective lockdown.”
Phillip Anderson, Head of Policy at the MS Society, says:
“More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, and many have been shielding at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as restrictions are eased for the rest of the country, vulnerable people have been left feeling confused, frustrated and forgotten.
“Shielding is necessary to protect people, but we’re deeply concerned about the impact it’s having on their wellbeing, and the Government must prioritise their needs – from ensuring they receive food deliveries to looking after their physical and mental health.”
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