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Our view on the proposed ‘pause’ in shielding

23rd Jun 2020

What have the UK Governments announced and what are we doing about it?

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The Governments of the UK have announced that the shielding service, which currently supports around 160,000 people with blood cancer, is being ‘paused’ later in the summer and will only be reintroduced if there is a second peak in COVID infections.

In England and Northern Ireland, this pause will take place on 1 August and it looks very likely that the same date will apply in Scotland. In Wales, shielding will continue until 16 August. This means that people will be able to return to work, or to the shops, as long as they maintain social distancing rules.

Although shielding since March has been difficult for many people with blood cancer, for others it’s been a vital way to protect themselves and avoid risking their health.

We’re concerned and disappointed that the Westminster Government previously promised a ‘nuanced approach’ to changes to shielding. This could have meant asking a smaller group of people with blood cancer to keep shielding, for example. Unfortunately, pausing shielding altogether, for everyone, isn’t the nuanced approach we were expecting.

People with blood cancer remain at risk

There’s growing research evidence that people with blood cancer are more likely to be severely unwell if they catch coronavirus. There were also some signs that people with blood cancer were overrepresented in intensive care.

Although it’s good news that the likelihood of catching the virus is falling across the UK generally, we’re concerned that the Governments haven’t assessed whether people with blood cancer are still at greater risk, or if some people with blood cancer should continue to shield even now, before pausing the service for everyone.

Some support after August, but more needs to be done

It’s a step in the right direction that the Westminster Government has announced that people with blood cancer who are shielding will still be able to receive priority supermarket delivery slots. They’ll also be able to get help from the NHS Volunteers scheme and local volunteering programmes.

However, it’s important that all UK Governments ensure this support is available, to help protect people who still want to stay at home as much as possible.

More support for working people with blood cancer

The biggest problem with the pause in shielding, is what it means for those working age people with blood cancer who can’t work-from-home. Under shielding rules, they currently get sick pay, which means they can safely avoid going into work.

If the shielding service is paused, this will mean some people with blood cancer will be forced to choose between going back to work at risk to their health, or staying at home and potentially losing their jobs.

We want the Government to re-open the furlough scheme, so that people who are of working age and are currently shielding can have their job protected if they can’t work from home.

What are we doing?

We’re contacting MPs from all parties and collaborating with other charities to warn Ministers of the impact of blanket changes to the shielding scheme on people with blood cancer.

Here are some simple ways you could help:

Support for you

If you’d like to speak to someone about shielding, call our helpline for free on 0808 2080 888 from 10am – 7pm on Monday to Friday and from 10am – 1pm on Saturday and Sunday.

You can also find more information on our Shielding and Support for You page

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Coronavirus and blood cancer

Coronavirus information for people affected by leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma or any blood cancer.

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