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Shielding and support for you

We're here for you if you want to talk?

0808 2080 888

[email protected]

How to shield

This page explains how to shield (stay at home until at least the end of June) if you're at high risk of serious illness from coronavirus.

What is self-isolation, social distancing and shielding?

Last updated: 7 May 2020

Everyone in the UK is being told to limit their social interaction. But people with blood cancer are advised to be particularly stringent and 'shield' at home until at least the end of June.

Self-isolation means staying away from other people because you have symptoms of coronavirus. You should not go out at all, except for exercise once a day as long as you are 2 meters away from anyone else. You should follow this advice for 7 days and anyone else you live with should follow this advice for 14 days. If someone vulnerable lives with you, they should stay somewhere else if possible for 14 days. If this isn't possible, you should keep away from each other in the house and not share things like towels or cutlery. The government provides more detailed advice on self-isolation if someone has coronavirus symptoms.

Social distancing means avoiding interaction with other people as much as possible. Everyone in the UK is being told to do this. You should not go out at all, except to shop for basic essentials, to exercise once a day, for any medical need, or to travel to work (only when absolutely necessary). If you are over 70, have an underlying health condition, or are pregnant, you should follow the advice as strictly as you can. The government provides more detailed advice on social distancing for everyone in the UK.

Shielding means staying at home, until at least the end of June, because you are in the high risk group. People in the high risk group, including people with blood cancer, will get a letter or text directly from the NHS about this. If you are shielding, you should:

  • not leave the house at all, even for exercise
  • have someone else bring you supplies such as food and medication
  • take precautions at home if you live with other people who are still going out.

Staying at home (shielding yourself) until at least the end of June

Last updated: 7 May 2020

Adults and children with blood cancer may have a compromised immune system and therefore be at high risk of serious illness from coronavirus. If any of the following apply to you, you should be contacted directly by the NHS about staying at home until at least the end of June:

  • you currently have any type of blood cancer, whether you are having treatment or not
  • you have had an autologous transplant (using your own stem cells) in the last year
  • you have had an allogeneic transplant (using donor stem cells) in the last two years
  • you are on immunosuppression medication after a transplant, you have GvHD, or you have ongoing immunodeficiency after a transplant

We have more detailed information about who is included in this high risk group. If you fall into any of these categories, you are strongly advised to:

  • Stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact until at least the end of June.
  • This includes not going to shops or pharmacies, and not going out for exercise.

If you think you should have received a letter and you haven't, contact your hospital team or GP. They can add people to the list. The letter can help you access the support you need while shielding.

We have more information on how to access food, medication and government support if you are shielding.

The advice to stay home and away from other people does not apply to any cancer treatment you need to have. Continuing your cancer treatment is a priority. Talk to your healthcare team if you have an upcoming appointment to find out what you should do.

NHS England has produced a list of frequently asked questions for anyone staying at home (shielding) until at least the end of June.

If you live with other people, including children, you should either take the following precautions, or if these are not possible, then the people you live with should also stay at home (shield) with you until at least the end of June:

  • minimise time spent in shared spaces
  • keep shared spaces well ventilated
  • keep 2 meters (3 steps) away from each other
  • use separate bathrooms (or clean after each use)
  • sleep separately
  • use separate towels
  • not use the kitchen together or eat together
  • use separate cutlery, dishcloths and tea towels
  • clean door handles and kitchen and bathroom surfaces regularly
  • people you live with should take extra precautions when leaving and entering the home to keep you protected.

There's more detailed instructions on the government's page about how to 'shield' and what those you live with should do.

If these measures are not possible, then the people you live with should consider staying at home (shielding) until at least the end of June.

If you live with someone who has to go to work, they should be following the general advice to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus extremely strictly during their work. When they get home, they should wash their hands thoroughly. Inside the home, you should follow the precautions above for 'If you live with other people'. There's more detailed instructions on the government's page about how to 'shield' and what those you live with should do. If these measures aren't possible or you are still worried, you may want to consider living separately. 

Visits from people who provide essential support such as healthcare, daily needs or social care should continue, but not if they have any symptoms.

People should only visit your home if absolutely necessary. They should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival, and regularly whilst they are there. They should also keep 2 meters away from you.

The government has more detailed advice on how to 'shield' and what those you live with should do.

Last updated: 3 April 2020

Can pets spread coronavirus?

Current advice from the World Health Organisation and the British Veterinary Association is that there’s no evidence that pets can be a source of infection or become sick from coronavirus.

However, there is some evidence that coronavirus can survive on surfaces. This could include your pet’s fur, so it’s important to wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals. Avoid letting your pet touch your face, and avoid touching your own face with your hands.

How can I walk my dog?

If you are shielding, ask someone else to walk your dog.

Whoever walks your dog should wash their hands before and after, and keep 2 meters away from other people and animals, including you when collecting the dog. Similarly, you should wash your hands before and after the dog is collected/returned.

PDSA have more information about pets and coronavirus.

Last updated: 3 April 2020

If there are people you would normally visit or help during this time, but you are also staying at home, there are other people and services that could help, and you can still help by being in regular contact.

We are currently looking at what we can do as a charity to bring more support to people staying at home.

  • Call your relative every day or more to check in with them.
  • Ask your relative's neighbours if they could help by bringing them supplies.
  • Ask other family members or friends who are not vulnerable themselves to drop off supplies.
  • Book online deliveries for your relative.
  • If you are worried about your relative getting supplies for home and don't have anyone nearby that can help, read our page on getting food and medication.
  • Contact their pharmacy if they need a volunteer to deliver their medication.
  • Contact their local council and tell them the situation.
  • Contact Age UK.
  • There are charities and groups in local communities working to support those who are vulnerable - look into anything happening in your relative's local area.

If you are struggling to get a letter

Contact us on 0808 2080 888 or [email protected]

In England, show your clinical team the letter from the Clinical Director for Cancer in England (see below).

Blood Cancer Medical Information Card

We’ve made this card so you can keep important details like your NHS number and your medical team with you at all times. This could be especially important if you’re admitted to a different hospital for any reason. It should help ensure your usual doctor or hospital team is aware and involved in any discussions about treatment or care.

Blood Cancer Medical Information Card

To use this card:

  1. Download it and fill in your details (you’ll need to open it in Adobe Acrobat Reader)
  2. Print it, or take a photo on your phone and ‘favourite’ it
  3. Tell family and friends where your card is

Download your card here:

Working with Government on access to shielding letters

On 7 May, Peter Johnson (Clinical Director for Cancer in England) sent out this letter to cancer teams across England. This letter urges cancer teams to continue identifying patients at high risk from coronavirus and urging them to shield. It includes links to how GPs and hospital teams can add patients to the list for a shielding letter. It states that the process for adding patients to this list will continue to be open throughout the COVID-19 incident. The letter also clarifies who is at risk in the blood cancer community, specifically including people with MDS and those being ‘managed expectantly’ (on watch and wait).

In view of the concerns we had from people with blood cancer in Wales, we worked with Angela Burns, a member of the Senedd, to contact the Minister asking about people with CLL and MPNs. We recieved this response, which indicates that some people with CLL and MPN should be included in the shielding guidance:

Tell us about your experience

You can help improve support for people with blood cancer by completing our impact of coronavirus survey. The results will help us understand the impact on people with blood cancer and help us support clinicians and the NHS.

Keep updated about coronavirus and blood cancer

Join our mailing list for key updates about coronavirus for people with blood cancer, what we're doing to help, and ways you can help, including campaigns you may be interested in.

Support for you

Call our free and confidential helpline on 0808 2080 888 from Monday to Friday, 10am to 7pm, and Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 1pm.

We are currently receiving a very high volume of calls related to coronavirus, so if you're not able to get through straight away, please leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

You can also email us if you prefer to get in contact that way. We'll usually get back to you within two working days, but due to the current rate of calls and emails we are currently receiving it may take us longer.

Talk to other people with blood cancer on our Online Community Forum – there is a group for coronavirus questions and support.

The following companies have provided funding for our coronavirus support, but have had no further input: AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Gilead, Incyte, Kyowa Kirin, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda.