New government guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable – FAQs

Starting on the 19th of July and continuing throughout August, all regions of the UK have now eased the majority of restrictions to combat COVID-19. This blog details the changes and what this means if you are considered clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) due to your leukaemia diagnosis.

Correct as of 29/11/2021. We will update this with further information as soon as possible. Please get in touch with us at advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.uk for further help. 

Am I still clinically extremely vulnerable?

Since the first advice was issued to the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) in March 2020, more is known about the impact of COVID-19 on leukaemia patients. Additionally, the vaccine has become available, which offers some protection, and a programme has started to give extra doses and/or boosters to the most vulnerable. However, we do not know how much protection and research is ongoing to work out which patients are least likely to be protected by the vaccine.  

Therefore, we advise that you continue to be cautious to avoid catching COVID-19 until more is known about the effectiveness of vaccines. If you would like to understand your own risk further, please speak to your clinical team. 

Overall, current advice is that the CEV follow the guidance that is in place for the general public. The NHS in England have also announced that the shielding list will no longer be maintained (see our statement at the end of this blog). However, due to the increased risk of serious illness if the CEV contract COVID-19 and the fact that more data is required to determine vaccine efficacy in the immunocompromised, CEV people are advised to continue to take extra precautions where possible. Here is a summary of the guidance: 

1. Vaccination and booster vaccines

Everyone aged over 12 should already have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine. You should ensure you have 2 doses of the vaccine to increase your level of protection, 3 doses if you are immune compromised, plus a booster dose when you are offered it.

You can read more about the vaccine changes in our blog here.

2. Socialising inside and outside the home

  • There will no longer be any limits on the number of people or households that you can meet with. 
  • The requirement to socially distance from others will also end, other than in a few exceptions (e.g. maintaining infection control in health and care settings). 
  • The CEV should think carefully about taking extra precautions when meeting with others, especially those who you do not usually meet with. Extra precautions could include:
    • meet outside in uncrowded spaces where possible
    • make sure the space is well ventilated if you meet inside
    • consider whether you and those you are meeting have been fully vaccinated – you might want to wait until 14 days after your second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before being in close contact with others
    • consider continuing to practice social distancing if that feels right for you and your friends
    • ask friends and family to take a lateral flow test before visiting you
    • wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face
    • consider if COVID-19 disease levels are high in the general community.
  • You are encouraged to go outside for exercise and can do so freely now. 

3. Work

  • Social distancing measures have ended in the workplace and there is no instruction to work from home currently in place. 
  • However, employers still have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and others from risks to their health and safety. Your employer should be able to explain to you the measures they have in place to keep you safe at work.
  • If you need support to work at home or in the workplace, you can apply for the Access to Work scheme. Access to Work may provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.
  • The furlough scheme and self employment support scheme will continue until 30th September 2021.
  • If you have concerns about your employer not managing the risk of Covid-19 you can raise these with the Health and Safety Executive or local authorities who will take appropriate action. Contact our team for further advice about how to raise your concerns: advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.net

4. Face coverings

  • In England, the UK Government is making it a legal requirement for face masks to be worn in shops and on public transport. This will be law from the 30th of November until further notice. However, the Government expects and recommends that all people continue to wear face coverings in all indoor spaces.
  • In Scotland and Wales, it remains mandatory to wear face coverings in most indoor public spaces. Look out for signs on doors to see where this is applicable.

5. Going to shops and pharmacies

The CEV are now advised to follow the guidance that applies to the rest of the population, however, you may still wish to consider going to the shops and pharmacy at quieter times of the day.

Our statement 

Leukaemia Care wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid MP, to express concerns about this advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people ahead of 19th of July in England. The guidance advises that the CEV should try to avoid and limit contact with others where possible, yet it does not offer any practical support in the wider society which would enable the vulnerable to follow the advice. We have also expressed concerns, along with other blood cancer charities as part of the Blood Cancer Alliance, about the announcement on the 15th of September that the NHS in England will not maintain the shielded patient listWe believe this gives the wrong impression about the status of these people as the pandemic continues and will make it more difficult to contact them should restriction be needed again. 

We also wrote to the other UK nations health ministers to express similar concerns ahead of similar announcements throughout August, asking them too to consider providing additional support to the CEV.  

For support, you can also call our helpline: 08088 010 444, or use our WhatsApp service: 07500068065. If you prefer to email, please send your questions to support@leukaemiacare.org.uk. The helpline team will take your details and pass them onto the advocacy team. 

Blog post published on: 14th July 2021

Blog post last updated on: 29th November 2021

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