People who have cancer of the blood or bone marrow, such as lymphoma, leukaemia or myeloma, who are at any stage of treatment, are considered to be at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
If you are in this group, it is important that you read the government guidance in full.
The NHS is directly contacting people who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in order to provide further advice.
- If you think you fall into this category and you have not received a letter or been contacted by your GP, you should discuss it with your GP or medical team.
- If you have received a letter or text advising you that you are at high risk but you think it is an error, check the government advice on what to do.
If you have received advice from the government to shield for 12 weeks then you should follow this advice.
The government guidance refers to ‘Patients at any stage of treatment’. This includes people before, during and after treatment.
- Before treatment: people who are on active monitoring (watch and wait) for low-grade lymphoma.
- During treatment: people who are currently having treatment for lymphoma. (Patients on treatment should follow the standard neutropenic sepsis pathways and telephone for clinical advice as stated by chemotherapy unit prior to commencing treatment.)
- After treatment: people who are within 2 years of finishing treatment, or longer if ongoing recurrent infections.
In addition, the British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) guidance is to shield if you have had a splenectomy in the past.
Shielding is a way of protecting people who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 by minimising their interaction with other people. This reduces their chance of coming into contact with the virus.
If you are considered to be at high risk, you should not leave your home. Within your home, you should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of your household.
If you think you have a condition that puts you at very high risk, or you have received a letter from the NHS advising you to shield yourself, you are strongly advised to follow the face-to-face distancing measures below:
Strictly avoid contact with anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature (above 37.8°C or 100°F) and/or new and continuous cough.
- Do not leave your house.
- Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces.
- Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel. If you are having food or medication delivered, make sure they are left at the door to minimise contact.
- Keep in touch remotely with other people using technology such as your phone, internet, and social media.
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.
- Wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and clean frequently-touched surfaces regularly.
If you share a living space with other people, you should also minimise your contact with them.
- Aim to keep at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from people you live with.
- Keep the time you spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas to a minimum, and keep these spaces well ventilated.
- If you usually share a bed with someone else, encourage them to sleep in a different bed if this is possible.
- If you can, use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. If you do share a toilet or bathroom with other people, make sure they are cleaned after use every time. Use separate towels from the other people in your house.
- If you share a kitchen with other people, avoid using it while they are present. If you can, take your meals back to your room to eat. Make sure all used crockery and cutlery are thoroughly washed and dried, in a dishwasher if you have one. If you are using separate crockery, cutlery and utensils from the rest of the household, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these.
- Encourage everyone in your household to wash their hands regularly, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently-touched surfaces.
You should follow this advice for at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter.
If you receive regular health or social care from an organisation, either through your local authority or privately, tell your care providers that you are shielding and agree a plan for continuing your care.
If you receive essential care from friends or family members, speak to your carers about extra precautions they can take to keep you safe.
Speak to your carers about a back-up plan for your care in case your main carer is unwell and needs to self-isolate. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, or if you do not have family or friends who can help you, you can contact your local council who will be able to help you and assess any social care needs you might have. You might be able to register for government support for help getting deliveries of essential supplies. Check what support is available where you live:
The government advises everyone to access medical assistance remotely (for example, by phone or online), wherever possible. If you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment while you are shielding, contact your GP or medical team to make sure you continue to receive the care you need and to check if your appointments are absolutely essential.
It is possible that your hospital might need to cancel or postpone some clinics and appointments. You should contact your hospital or clinic to confirm appointments.