PCA’s response to shielding guidance changes in England and NI
In this blog you will find details of the latest update to the shielding advice for England and NI, including what restrictions have been eased and why, the questions raised by these changes and PCA's standpoint. Ali Stunt also discusses what she'll be doing once the measures are eased, from her viewpoint as someone currently shielding.
From Monday the 6th of July, shielding guidance for people living in England and Northern Ireland will change. Those who are shielding will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 6 people. If you are shielding alone or are a single parent, you will be able to combine with another household to form a bubble including over night stays.
This advice will be in place until the end of July and from the 1st of August, people in England and Northern Ireland will no longer be advised to shield. Shopping and visiting places of worship will resume, those who cannot work from home are advised to return to their jobs and the current level of food and medical support will stop or change.
Why has the guidance changed?
Shielding guidance for England was due to be reviewed by the end of June. The original period of time that people were asked to shield for has ended. During this time, the level of Covid-19 in the community is believed to have fallen considerably, reducing the chances of becoming infected.
Covid-19 has not gone away, and there is a remaining risk, but the government have decided that this risk has become low enough to reduce shielding guidance.
Questions raised by shielding guidance
The new shielding guidance raises several questions:
- What support will be available to extremely vulnerable people once shielding is over?
- What precautions would need to be in place to define a safe workspace for previous shielded people? Will these differ from the rest of the population?
- What services will be available to those whose physical or mental health has been affected by shielding to support the relaxation of guidance?
- Will shielding guidance be reviewed on a local or national basis if infections rise again?
Pancreatic Cancer Action’s response
We know that shielding has been an isolating and worrying time, with impacts on the health of everyone affected. For some people, the relaxation in shielding guidance may feel like a release or a relief. For others, this may be a time of heightened anxiety. Shielding guidance has always been advice, but the removal of support will make it more difficult for those who are concerned and wish to continue shielding themselves to do so.
We believe that shielding is very personal and should be a decision that vulnerable people can make with the support of their medical teams in a way that is personalised and based on risk and access to support.
Ali Stunt, founder of Pancreatic Cancer Action and 12-year pancreatic cancer survivor, has been shielding since March. Here she explains her feelings about the relaxation of shielding measures.
“As a shielding person myself I have mixed emotions about the relaxation and pausing of the shielding advice. On the one hand I can’t wait to get back to a sort of normal, on the other, I know the virus hasn’t yet gone away and I’m concerned I may be putting myself and others at risk.
“Personally, I am going to take things step by step. I’m going to go to outdoor places if I want to meet anybody and, despite a potential reduction of the 2m social distancing to 1m, I will still be giving people, even family, a very wide birth for a while and I’m not going to be rushing to the pub or the hairdressers once they open again!
I am concerned for those people who, after August 1st, will not feel like going back to work as they are anxious and will no longer be eligible for sick pay. I’m also concerned for those needing the food parcels which will also stop in August. However, I want people to know that the NHS volunteer responders will still be available for those who need help.”
If you are concerned about how the new guidance will affect you, we recommend speaking to your GP or medical team about how best to continue to protect yourself from Covid-19. You can also speak to your local authority about the support they will be able to offer you and if you currently use the NHS volunteer service, asking about any measures after August 1st.
You can also call us at Pancreatic Cancer Action on 0303 040 1770 or email [email protected]