What do the changes to shielding announced on 22 June mean for people with pancreatic cancer?

26 June 2020

We are Lynne and Emma, specialist pancreatic cancer nurses.

You may have seen in the news this week that more advice is being given to those who have been shielding in England and Northern Ireland. In this week’s blog we are going to explain what the new rules may mean for you and give information about the support available to help you through these changes.

People with pancreatic cancer were asked to shield if they were undergoing chemotherapy or immunotherapy or had recently completed treatment. The government issued advice this week regarding easing some of these restrictions associated with shielding.

In England and Northern Ireland, from July 6th those shielding will be able to:

  • Spend time outdoors in a group of up to 6 people including those outside their household, while maintaining social distancing and remembering good hand hygiene. This can be in a public outdoor space, or in a private garden.
  • No longer observe social distancing with other members of your household.
  • Those who live alone or are single parents with children will also be able to create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household of any size. All those in a support bubble can spend time together inside each other’s homes, including overnight stays.

From August 1st, the shielding advice will be paused.

  • You will be able to adopt strict social distancing practices rather than full shielding.
  • You will be able to go out more and see more people, and visit shops and places of worship. You must continue to maintain social distancing and minimise contact with others outside your household or support bubble.
  • You will be able to return to work if you cannot work at home – as long as your workplace is safe and has measures in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus.

We will provide more information about the easing of these restrictions in the coming weeks, including more details on work and finances.

The information above is for England and Northern Ireland. If you live in Wales, shielding will continue until 16 August. You are currently able to meet people you don’t live with as long as it is outside. In Scotland there is a plan to review current shielding precautions on the 31st July. Current guidance states that you are allowed to meet with one other household outside as long as there are no more than 8 people. Read more about the current guidance for people shielding.

You should continue to be very cautious when you do go out as you will still be at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell if you do catch coronavirus. The government’s advice is still to stay at home as much as possible.

Shielding has been tough, with people making sacrifices to keep safe.  If you have been shielding you may feel unsettled or confused with the upcoming changes. It is quite normal to have some worries, and we hope this blog helps to make sense of the new advice – there is also information below about support available. Please be assured that the government’s advice reflects the latest evidence that the risk of catching coronavirus has reduced. Be aware though that the guidance released this week may alter should the situation change. If the coronavirus starts to spread too much, then you may be advised to shield again.

Ongoing support

While you’ve been shielding you may have received additional support whist at home. This may have included the delivery of food and medicines.  You may have registered for the support established by the English government. Advice this week confirms that this service will continue until the end of July. Registration to this service will close on the 17th July. The access to priority supermarket delivery slots will continue into August if you have already signed up to this.

Local community volunteer groups will continue to be available beyond the end of July to those that need it, offering support with the collection and delivery of food and medicine.  You can find local groups through the Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK website.

The NHS Volunteer Responders Scheme will continue beyond the end of July, and can support you with collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies. They can also provide regular phone calls with volunteers who provide companionship to people who are shielding. If your doctor or nurse refers you, they can provide transport to medical appointments.

Read more about support that’s available.

Looking after you

Having pancreatic cancer can be a stressful and anxious time for most people. Feelings of shock, anger, frustration and anxiety are quite normal. While you have been shielding you may have noticed these feelings increase, or you may have noticed these feelings for the first time. With change comes some built in stresses, uncertainty, and you may be feeling confused, panicked or worried about the upcoming easing of the shielding precautions. We have lots of information that can help you look after your mental health.

We are here for you

If you have any concerns about your treatment, or questions about pancreatic cancer or coronavirus, you can of course speak to one of our nurse specialists on the Support Line.

Thanks for reading our blog, we hope you’ve found it useful. We know things are tough at the moment but stay safe.

Lynne & Emma