Shielding during Covid-19… 4 months on
With shielding coming to an end, some 4 months after it was originally imposed, we discuss its ongoing health, wellbeing and financial repercussions. This includes shielders anxieties with having to return to normal life and the potential of further shielding amid local lockdowns. We consider what must be done to support them and how we will be advocating for their care in our communications with the NHS and Government.
For many people with pancreatic cancer, and other medical conditions, the 1st of August marks the end of more then 4 months of shielding for many people with Wales expected to follow on August 16th. The government is encouraging shielding people to return to work, shopping and life as normal as much as possible. However, as local lockdowns are beginning to be enforced across the UK, the impact of asking people to repeatedly shield, on their confidence, health and wellbeing and finances must be considered.
In June, we asked patients with pancreatic cancer to complete a survey from Cancer52 which included questions about shielding during Covid-19, how the experience affected them and lessons that could be learned for the future. We are grateful to everyone who took part in this survey. As shielding is paused across different areas of the UK, Pancreatic Cancer Action will be using the information gathered to advocate for people with pancreatic cancer at a charity, NHS and government level across the UK with a focus on key issues identified by shielders.
Many shielders commented on the challenges associated with managing the side effects of treatment or deterioration in their physical health when isolated from friends and family often acting in the capacity of informal carers. With pancreatic cancer we’re often concerned about the effect of shielding on their disease, more so then concerns about Covid-19. Striking an individualised balance on shielding is difficult but must be carried out based on risk and local rate of Covid-19 infection.
Loneliness and isolation were also frequently mentioned. People with pancreatic cancer broadly understood the need to shield but found the social isolation extremely challenging. Local lockdowns are likely to affect the shielding population who may be repeatedly asked to shield if cases rise in their area. Mental health support must be in place for the shielding population that is easy to access and available throughout the course of the pandemic to prevent serious harm in the medium to long-term.
Support after shielding
People with pancreatic cancer often described shielding as difficult, but equally expressed concerns about the process ending. The idea of going back to work or resuming aspects of daily life are particularly worrying for people concerned about local outbreaks. Shielders must be supported by the government and their employers to return to work and other daily activities safely. Furthermore, shielders must be supported in the event of local lockdowns where safe working is no longer possible and in situations where shielders have questions or feel uncomfortable.
The issues raised here by people with pancreatic cancer will be used in all of our ongoing communication with the NHS, government and those that create shielding guidance. We will act to voice the concerns of people with pancreatic cancer throughout the pandemic and beyond.
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