Yesterday the government announced some new changes that will affect kidney patients, particularly those who have been advised to shield in Northern Ireland and England. You can read more about these on our Coronavirus advice page.
There has been an ambivalent welcome from patients overnight to the government announcement of changes in shielding guidance; this advice does however offer a path forward from a very difficult place and time for many. For some people who have been advised to shield since mid-March, the chance to spend time with more people or go into a support bubble with a much-loved and much-missed family member is a real boost.
We know that the fact each nation in the UK has different advice has been confusing and frustrating for many. We are committed to working with each of the four governments to put forward the concerns of kidney patients wherever they live; a lot of this is happening behind the scenes so please be reassured that we are working with each devolved government on this.
The worries that people have about changes in guidance are obviously going to take a long time to process and will not disappear overnight - in our recent Worried Sick survey more than four in ten people told us that mental health was a problem for them and two in ten said they did not know how to get help. If you need support, please remember that we are here for you. It’s also going to take a long time for people to rebuild confidence or return to anywhere near normal - lots of clinical and emotional support will be needed from a stretched NHS workforce.
Employment is a big concern for us at Kidney Care UK. We need to see that patients are not exposed to unwarranted pressure from employers to return to work. We are very concerned that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is to stop for kidney patients who are unable to work after 1st August because their workplace is not COVID-safe. We’ll be speaking to the government to push for a solution for those unable to return to work after this time because their workplace cannot be made safe, and who are not already on the furlough scheme, so that this group of people do not fall through the cracks. Legislative protection is needed so that people do not feel they have to prioritise income over health. If you’d like to talk to us about this, please email your concerns to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
With changes taking place in regards to accessing food, we are mindful that some people will not want to go to the shops so will continue to need supermarket priority, as promised (both online and over the telephone for those without internet access). During this time of lockdown, transplants have not been able to go ahead in many places. It's estimated that 556 kidney transplants have not gone ahead. This has made it extra hard for many who have had to start dialysis and remain uncertain about the future.
Shielding has been a harsh and difficult experience which has highlighted inequalities and exacerbated anxieties for many. We are seeking public understanding and support for those who are slowly returning to something nearer ‘normal’. We are currently drawing up some further guidance for kidney patients with our renal medical colleagues, patients and charities. Thank you from all of us at Kidney Care UK, we think you have been amazing throughout this difficult period and we remain here to support you every step of the way as we navigate this new and uncertain future together.Fiona Loud Policy Director at Kidney Care UK