As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic continues to escalate in the UK, the government have announced much more restrictive rules on social distancing and the NHS have contacted all patients who are deemed at high risk of becoming seriously ill if they were to contract the virus.
At Pryers we have helped many clients who would fall into this ‘high risk’ category. At a time when our social media is flooded with information on the virus, we wanted to cut through the noise and summarise what this means for them.
Those at high risk
The symptoms and repercussions of the coronavirus are varied dependent on the patient. It is difficult to predict how each person will be affected if they contracted the virus, but it is recognised that there are certain underlying health conditions that result in the risk of getting seriously ill as a result of COVID-19 being increased. These conditions include those who:
- Have had an organ transplant;
- Are having certain types of cancer treatment;
- Undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer;
- Blood or bone marrow cancer, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma (at any stage of treatment);
- Immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer;
- Targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors;
- Bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs;
- Have a severe lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis, severe COPD or severe asthma;
- Have a condition that makes you much more likely to get infections, such as SCID, (homozygous sickle cell);
- Are taking medicine that weakens your immune system;
- Are pregnant and have a serious heart condition (congenital or acquired).
The NHS have now contacted all those in a vulnerable position, if you think you fall into any of the categories listed above and have not been contacted, please discuss this with your GP or hospital clinician.
Advice for those at high risk
Everyone has been told to limit their movement, staying at home and only going out when absolutely necessary for basic essentials, medical needs, exercise or travel to or from work for key workers. However, ‘shielding’ has been strongly advised for those at high risk. This means that those are being asked to take extra measures to shield themselves from contracting the virus:
- Do not leave your home – not even for shopping, or visiting friends or family; and
- Avoid close contact with other people in your home as much as possible.
You are strongly advised to stay at home and avoid any face to face contact for at least 12 weeks. This timeframe is the initial guidance only and may change in the future.
Ongoing care for those at high risk
Everyone is advised to access medical care remotely wherever possible. Talk to your GP or specialist if you have any scheduled hospital or other medical appointments.
If you have planned visits from carers and care workers to maintain your health, personal and daily needs these should continue, but if any of these people display any symptoms of coronavirus they must stay away.
All carers and you should practice good hand hygiene and should wash hands for at least 20 seconds before and after any interactions.
Advice for those living with people at high risk
The whole household may not have to adopt the protective shielding measures, it is strongly advised that they follow the guidance on social distancing and minimise interactions with those at high risk. They should:
- Minimise time spent in shared spaces, such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas;
- Keep shared spaces well ventilated;
- Keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from those at high risk;
- Sleep in different beds where possible;
- Use separate bathrooms if possible:
- If this isn’t possible, it is important they are cleaned after use every time with every surface you come into contact with;
- Draw up a bathing rota, with the most vulnerable using it first;
- Keep towels separate from others (both for bathing and hand washing);
- Avoid using a shared kitchen whilst those at risk are present;
- Use separate utensils and crockery if possible:
- Use a dishwasher to clean and dry equipment separately, if you don’t have a dishwasher, wash your own utensils, using a separate tea towel to dry them properly.
All household members should:
- Avoid touching their face;
- Regularly wash their hands;
- Clear frequently touched surfaces.
What those at risk should do if they contract coronavirus
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, seek clinical advice using NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS111 if you don’t have internet access. In an emergency, call 999 if you are seriously ill.
Pack a single hospital bag, just in case. This should include your overnight essentials you’re your emergency contact, a list of the medications you take (including dose and frequency) and details of any planned care appointments.
There is more information available on the government website, but if you are in any doubt, please speak to your GP or specialist.
If you are currently pursuing a medical negligence claim and begin to display symptoms of coronavirus, if you are able to, please email us with details of your condition. We can ensure this is considered within the context of your ongoing health and claim.