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Dealing with the practical impact of coronavirus and pancreatic cancer

As the governments across the UK update their advice about coronavirus (COVID-19) and more places open up, it is normal to have concerns about what this means for you if you or a loved one has pancreatic cancer. You may have questions about what new guidance means for you, and how to get support if you need it.

In this section we have information on getting practical support if you have pancreatic cancer, have been shielding, or if you are self-isolating.

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The information here is based on the national guidance across the UK. If you live in an area where there is a local coronavirus outbreak, check what the guidance is for you locally.

It’s important to think about what you would do if someone you live with gets symptoms of coronavirus, or is contacted as part of the NHS test and trace service. For example, is there someone else you could stay with for 14 days to keep you safe? Or would you still be able to get the support you need if a family member or close friend needed to self-isolate for 14 days? Planning these things in advance can be helpful.

Practical information to help you keep safe

The advice is that you can now go to more public places, such as the hairdressers, places of worship and restaurants and pubs – this includes people who have been shielding too. But you should still stay home as much as possible and to practice social distancing if you do go out.

If you have pancreatic cancer, you should take particular care as you may be more at risk of becoming seriously ill if you were to get coronavirus – especially if you have been shielding. Read more information about current guidance and what it means for you.

There are things that everyone can do to keep safe:

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser often.
  • Practical social distancing, and avoid going into 1 metre zones if you can.
  • Try to avoid touching your face, and you should also avoid touching surfaces when you are out.
  • Wear a face covering when you are out in public – especially in enclosed spaces.
  • You may want to plan to go out when you know if will be quieter, for example earlier or later in the day.
  • Try to avoid public transport if possible. If you need to use it, wear a face covering and try and sit near an open window. You should make sure you wash your hands or use hand sanitiser as soon as you finish your journey.
  • Use the self-checkout at the supermarket, and pay with a contactless card if you have one. It is unlikely that you can catch coronavirus through food or food packaging. The GOV.UK website has more information about this, including advice on good food hygiene.
  • You could take your own plate or cutlery with you if you are eating with people outside your household – for example, at a picnic or BBQ.
  • If you are at a restaurant with outside seating, choose to sit outside.
  • It is best to sit side by side with someone who is not in your household, rather than face to face.
  • You could also try takeaways for cooked meals if you don’t fancy going out. Lots of restaurants and pubs are now offering takeaways and meal deliveries.

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Practical information people who have been shielding

If you have been shielding this is now paused in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and you should follow government guidance on social distancing and visit public places. You can now use public transport too, as long as you wear a face covering. These changes may feel like a relief, but they may also make you feel anxious. It is important to do what you feel comfortable with and to still ask for help if you need it.  

It is still best to stay home as much as possible. You should carry on social distancing (staying 2 metres apart) from people who are not in your household or support bubble. This is because you are still at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if you were to get coronavirus.

Let friends, family and neighbours know how you feel about going out and if you need help or support. We have more information on this page about the practical support you can get if you are staying home. Always remember that if you have any questions about pancreatic cancer and coronavirus, you can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

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Getting food and supplies

If you have been shielding

As shielding has paused, government support to deliver food parcels and medicines is also paused. Local community volunteer groups across the UK can support people who are self-isolating or staying at home. You can find local groups through the Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK website.

Some supermarkets are still doing priority deliveries for people who are vulnerable or have been shielding. But if you live in England, you needed to register for this before 17 July. If you need urgent food or care, contact your local council.

The government has support services for people who have been shielding.

  • If you live in England, NHS Volunteer Responders will carry on delivering the food you buy, your prescriptions and any essential items you need. They can also help with transport to medical appointments, but your doctor or nurse will need to refer you for this.
  • If you live in Scotland, you can get in touch with your local authority for support with getting food. The government’s helpline and text message shielding service will still provide support to people who have been shielding.
  • If you live in Wales, you can contact your local authority or voluntary groups for support. You will still be able to have prescription medicine delivered by The National Volunteer Prescription Delivery Scheme until the end of September.
  • If you live in Northern Ireland, the Consumer Council and Community NI have information about services and organisations that can provide support. There is also a COVID-19 Community Helpline to provide information and support to those that are vulnerable.

If you are self-isolating

If you, or someone you live with, has coronavirus symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus you will need to self-isolate. This means staying home for between 7 to 14 days – the NHS website has more information on when and how to self-isolate.

During this time, you will need to avoid face-to-face contact with anyone outside your household, and so may need help and support to get food and supplies. Try and order food through your supermarkets delivery service. Some of the support services for people shielding may also be helpful to you – for example, get in touch with local support groups through Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK website or the NHS Volunteer Responders. If you are in need or urgent food or supplies, you should contact your local council.

  • There are other ways to get support while staying at home. Ask friends, family or neighbours if they can buy supplies for you. If you need to avoid seeing people, ask them to leave the supplies on your doorstep.
  • If you are having supplies delivered, leave a note on your door saying where to leave the delivery so that you can avoid the delivery person. 
  • If you need prescription medicines, you could ask someone to collect them for you, or contact your pharmacy to see if they can deliver. You should be able to order repeat prescriptions through your GP’s website or by phone.

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If you need medical help that’s not for coronavirus

If you need medical help for pancreatic cancer or another condition that isn’t coronavirus, contact your medical team or GP and follow their advice. Don’t go to your GP or hospital in person unless asked to do so. If you do visit your GP or hospital, make sure you are wearing a face covering when you go there.

You can also speak to our specialist nurses with any questions about pancreatic cancer.

If you are having chemotherapy and have symptoms of a fever or feel unwell this could be an infection or it could be coronavirus. Contact the emergency number your chemotherapy team will have given you for advice. If you can’t get through, contact your medical team. You could also try the consultant’s secretary or hospital switchboard if you struggle to get through to your medical team. If you still can’t get through, call 111, or 999 if it’s an emergency.

It might be helpful to keep a list of key phone numbers near the phone – including family, friends and neighbours who can help out, your medical team at the hospital, the emergency number if you are having chemotherapy, your GP surgery and NHS 111.

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Returning to work

As lockdown eases and more businesses open back up, you may have questions about what this means for you returning to work. The government advice is still to work from home if you can.

Speak to your employer about any plans for your workplace to open, and if you can work from home. Your employer should support this, especially if you have been shielding or are in a high-risk group. There is a useful tool on GOV.UK to check whether you should be returning to work

If you have pancreatic cancer, you have rights at work and are protected from discrimination. Your employer must make reasonable adjustments to allow you to continue working if you want to. Macmillan Cancer Support have more information about this.

Information if you are returning to work

If you do need to go into work, your employer should have put measures in place to keep you safe. These measures include social distancing , handwashing, and frequent cleaning at work. You can read more about these measures in our blog on working during coronavirus.

If you or anyone in your household or support bubble has symptoms of coronavirus, or you have been contacted as part of the NHS Test and Trace, you should stay home and not go in to work. You can get an isolation note from the NHS website to give to your employer. Or, if you feel well enough and are able to, you can work from home.

In England, Scotland and Wales, you can work in someone else’s home, or you can have work done in your own home. But if someone has coronavirus symptoms, they shouldn’t work in someone else’s house. If you are in a high-risk group or have been shielding you should only have work carried out in your home if it is an emergency – for example a plumbing issue. You can read the government guidance on this here.

If you are concerned about going to work and your risk of getting coronavirus, you should speak to your employer about this. There are measures they can put in place to keep you safe. If you would like advice, you can contact ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) or your trade union, if you are a member of one. You can also contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or HSE Northern Ireland for more advice. Read more about this in our blog.

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Getting support with your finances

Coronavirus may have a big impact on your finances if it has affected whether you or your family can work. There is support and advice available to help you cope financially. The government has put measures in place for businesses and employees affected by coronavirus.

When shielding is paused and people are able to return to work, you will no longer be able to get statutory sick pay due to shielding. But, if you have pancreatic cancer and the cancer or treatment means you are too sick to work, you should be entitled to statutory sick pay. You can also get statutory sick pay if you are self-isolating because you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms and you don’t feel well enough to work from home.

You can find information about statutory sick pay and other types of financial support on GOV.UK if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. If you live in Northern Ireland, you can find this information on nidirect.

Your employer should help you to return to work, by working from home or working while practicing social distancing. If this isn’t suitable for you, your employer may be able to offer you different types of leave, such as going back on furlough if this is something you have already done

There is lots of information available about what financial support you might be able to get.

  • GOV.UK has information about government measures and financial support.
  • The Money Advice Service has information about what you are entitled to and things you can do to make sure you get what you are entitled to and plan your finances.
  • Citizens Advice can provide information and advice about what coronavirus means for your finances.
  • Macmillan Cancer Support have financial information for people with cancer, including information about coronavirus and finances. They also have financial advisors on their Support Line.

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Scams and misinformation related to coronavirus

There have been reports of scams related to coronavirus, including emails or scammers pretending to be health officials. Always follow the usual precautions against fraud and scams, and be vigilant. You can read more on the GOV.UK website.

If you are contacted through the NHS contact tracing service, there is information on the NHS website about making sure it's genuine. They also explain what they will ask you - and what they won't ask you.

There is also a lot of inaccurate information online and on social media. Always follow the government information for the country you live in. The government has launched a free WhatsApp service to provide regular updates and information. To use this service, add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then send a message saying ‘hi’ to that number in WhatsApp to get started. If you live in Scotland, there is also a SMS Shielding Service you can sign up to.

Reputable charities are also a good source of accurate information.

If you receive information and you’re not sure if it’s genuine, you could speak to our specialist nurses. They can discuss what you have received and whether it might be official.

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Read our information on how coronavirus might affect people with pancreatic cancer.

Read our information on dealing with emotional impact of coronavirus and pancreatic cancer.