The COVID-19 vaccination programme has been a tremendous success with 70% of the UK population now fully vaccinated. Although rates of infection are rising due to the new Omicron variant, the number of infected people in hospital in the UK remains relatively stable. However, we still need to remain vigilant, and continue to follow Government advice to keep ourselves safe, especially those people who are vulnerable and who have cancer and their families.
UPDATED 31 December 2021
Following advice from the UK Health Security Agency and in the light of the rapid increase in Omicron cases, the UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director have recommended to ministers that the UK COVID-19 alert level should increase from Level 3 to Level 4.
Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced. Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.
The Government have initiated plan B to prevent the spread of this new variant while urgent work is ongoing to try to understand the impact of Omicron with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility.
Plan B measures include:
- Face masks to become compulsory in most public indoor venues, other than hospitality
- Certain venues and events will be required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 years or over are fully vaccinated, have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours, or have an exemption
- People asked to work from home if they can
- Vaccines and testing remain our best lines of defence
Vaccines continue to remain our best line of defence, and all adults who have not yet received their first or second dose of the vaccine, or those who are eligible for their booster are encouraged to come forward to help protect themselves and others.
It is extremely important that if you are eligible, you get your COVID-19 vaccination now – whether this be your first, second or booster dose.
The booster programme has been extended to all 18-39 year-olds and the gap between the second dose and booster reduced to three months. All those aged 12 to 15 years have now been advised to receive a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after the first dose. Severely immunosuppressed individuals who have received three primary doses, should now also be offered a booster dose.
It is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated.
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should arrange to take a PCR test as soon as possible. This still applies even if you have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others.
All of us can play our part by understanding the situations where risks of COVID-19 infection and transmission are likely to be higher, and taking action to reduce these risks.
Following this guidance will help you to understand situations where there is a greater risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 and the steps that you can take to stay safe and protect others. Every action you take to help reduce the spread will help reduce pressure on the NHS during the winter months.
However, we must keep the virus under control and follow the Government guidance.
Everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. This is why the Government are keeping in place key protections:
- Get vaccinated when you are offered it, and encourage others to do so as well
- Testing when you have symptoms and targeted asymptomatic testing in education, high risk workplaces and to help people manage their personal risk
- Isolating when positive or when contacted by NHS Test and Trace
- Try to stay at home if you feel unwell
- Wash hands regularly and cover coughs and sneezes
- Use the NHS COVID-19 app
- Do not travel if you have COVID symptoms or are self-isolating
- Cautious guidance for individuals, businesses and the vulnerable whilst prevalence is high including:
- Being outside or letting fresh air in
- Minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts
Getting tested for COVID-19. This includes:
- Arranging to have a PCR test if you have symptoms of COVID-19
- Getting rapid lateral flow tests if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and you are required to do so to enable you to attend an event, are in full time education or a high risk workplace
- Participating in surge testing in your local area
- Arranging testing if you plan to travel to England from another country. There are rules for entering England and vaccination requirements for entering England
You should self-isolate immediately if you have symptoms or a positive test result for COVID-19. There is financial support if you’re off work because of coronavirus.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
- If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you can leave self-isolation after 7 full days
- Up to 50 outdoor and 30 indoor spectators can attend community sports events
- Two metre social distancing will be required in offices and all public premises
- A maximum of 6 people can meet in public premises
- Licensed premises will need to take additional reasonable measures to protect customers and staff
- A maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 people at outdoor events
- People attending weddings or civil partnership receptions or wakes should take a lateral flow test before attending.
- Nightclubs are closed until further notice
- Limit the amount of social contact you have with other households – gather in groups of no more than 3 households
- Avoid crowded places – shop at quieter times and follow safety measures in shops and other places
- If you don’t have symptoms take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with other people
- Unless exempt, wear a face covering in most indoor spaces
- Work from home if you can
- Take a LFD test each time before you visit someone in a hospital or care home
- Use the apps: COVID status, Protect Scotland and Check-in Scotland
- Nightclubs are not permitted to open
- Dancing is prohibited in hospitality settings (this does not apply to weddings and civil partnerships)
- Indoor standing events will not be permitted
- A maximum of six people are permitted to be seated together in hospitality settings. More than six are permitted if they all belong to a single household, as long as it is not more than 10. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total. This requirement does not apply to weddings and civil partnerships.
- Table service is required in all hospitality settings. Apart from entering and leaving the premises, the only movement allowed indoors is to access toilet facilities, to select food from a buffet or to pay
- Retail businesses must take reasonable measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission with social distancing, one-way systems, screens, barriers, effective ventilation and capacity management.
- Two metre social distancing will be required in office settings.
The Government has released the Government’s plan for recovery to return life to as near normal as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS. Currently this plan only applies to people living in England.
Here is a pdf version of our help sheet: COVID-19 vaccination helpsheet 14 Apr 2021
See also the following guide to vaccinations for COVID-19 from the British Society for Immunology.
There have been reports of a very rare condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after vaccination. Although this condition remains extremely rare there appears to be a higher risk in people shortly after the first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. Around 4 people develop this condition for every million doses of vaccine given. This is seen slightly more often in younger people and tends to occur between 4 days and 2 weeks following vaccination. This condition can also occur naturally, and clotting problems are a common complication of COVID-19 infection. The Government has released a leaflet to explain the risk of blood clotting.
Is the vaccine safe for kidney cancer patients?
“We are advising all our patients to be vaccinated as soon as they are invited unless there is a clear contraindication e.g. history of serious allergic reaction…….with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.”
This advice covers kidney cancer patients taking targeted therapy (e.g., sunitinib, pazopanib, axitinib or cabozantinib) and immunotherapy (nivolumab, ipilimumab, pembrolizumab or avelumab), and those with reduced kidney function. If your individual situation is worrying you, then please make sure you discuss this with your doctor who is the only person who has access to all your medical notes. If you are aware that you have had a severe allergic reaction to any medicines or food, then please make sure your doctor is aware of this. Further information about the coronavirus vaccination can be found on the NHS website.
Even though kidney transplant recipients were not included in the early COVID-19 clinical trials, many doctors believe the COVID-19 vaccine will be safe for these patients because the virus used to make the vaccine is not living (similar to the flu vaccine).
So, while the vaccine may be safe, its effectiveness in people with one kidney is not yet known.
Most doctors agree that the benefits of the vaccine for people with chronic kidney disease at any stage, those on dialysis, and kidney transplant recipients are much greater than the risk of serious disease or complications from COVID-19. Talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
What to expect after your COVID-19 vaccination
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and don’t last a long time, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the second dose will give you the best protection against the virus.
Very common side effects include:
- Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
- Feeling tired
- General aches, or mild flu-like symptoms.
Generally, these happen shortly after the vaccination and are not associated with more serious or lasting illness.
These types of reactions reflect the normal immune response triggered by the body to the vaccines. They are typically seen with most types of vaccine and tend to resolve within a day or two. The nature of reported suspected side effects is broadly similar across age groups, although, as was seen in clinical trials and as is usually seen with other vaccines, they may be reported more frequently in younger adults.
The most important symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of any of the following:
- A new continuous cough
- A high temperature
- Loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)
Although a mild fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a COVID-19 test. Further information on symptoms is available on NHS.UK.
You should be able to resume normal activities as long as you feel well. If your arm is particularly sore, you may find lifting heavy objects difficult. If you feel unwell or very tired you should rest and avoid operating machinery or driving.
It may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take the recommended precautions to avoid infection. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.
The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and a full course will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. We do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus, but we do expect it to reduce this risk. So, it is still important to follow the guidance in your local area to protect those around you.
Are there other more serious side effects?
Recently there have been reports of an extremely rare condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines. This is being carefully reviewed but the risk factors for this condition are not yet clear. Because of the high risk of complications and death from COVID-19, the MHRA, the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency have concluded that the balance is very much in favour of vaccination.
If you experience any of the following from around 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination you should seek medical advice urgently:
- A new, severe headache which is not helped by usual painkillers or is getting worse
- An unusual headache which seems worse when lying down or bending over or may be accompanied by
- blurred vision, nausea and vomiting
- difficulty with your speech,
- weakness, drowsiness or seizures
- New, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
- Shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain
Worldwide, there have also been recent, rare cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis reported after COVID-19 vaccines, although it is not yet clear that these are caused by the vaccines.
These cases have been seen mostly in younger men within several days after vaccination. Most of these people recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments.
You should seek medical advice urgently if you experience:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart
UPDATED: 1 September 2021
Two vaccines have been approved for use in the UK: the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Both vaccines protect people against all known variants of SARS-CoV-2. There is no preference for one vaccine over the other for any specific population. Because of the high rate of COVID-19 infection in the UK, the Government need rapid and high levels of vaccine uptake. If you are receiving the vaccination for the first time, you will be given two primary doses of the same vaccine 12 weeks apart.
An independent group of experts (the JCVI) has recommended that the NHS offers these vaccines to those at highest risk of catching the disease and of suffering serious complications or dying from COVID-19 first. This includes older adults in care homes and frontline health and social care workers. The Government has released a guide for the vaccination of adults. Vaccinations are now being offered to children aged 12 years and over.
You will be contacted by your GP surgery, the vaccination centre or the NHS to attend your vaccination appointment. Please do not ring your GP surgery to ask for an appointment but wait for them to contact you. You might hear via a letter in the post, an email, a text message or a phone call.
The third primary vaccination
People with weakened immune systems are being offered a THIRD primary COVID-19 vaccination, instead of just two doses. The third vaccination is NOT the same as a booster. It is a top up because while the first two doses will have offered some protection, they may not have generated a full immune response as they do in those who do not have weakened immune systems.
All people (including children aged 12 years and over) with weakened immune systems will be offered a third primary dose. This is in addition to the two primary doses you will have already received. As with the first two primary doses, please wait to be contacted by your GP surgery or consultant to be offered the third primary dose.
People being offered a third primary dose are those who have a weakened immune system as a result of an underlying health condition or disease such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Poorly controlled HIV
- A genetic disorder.
Some medical treatments can also weaken your immune system. These include:
- Radical radiotherapy
- Drugs given following organ, bone marrow or stem cell transplant
- Treatment for MS
- Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis
- Treatment for Crohn’s disease
- Systemic steroid use.
The NHS has already started to give third primary doses to those who need them. The third dose should be given at least eight weeks after the second dose, but timing will depend on any treatment you may be having. The third dose is a top up if you haven’t had a full immune response to the first two doses. The aim is to give you a similar level of protection as someone without a weakened immune system who has had two doses.
The COVID-19 booster vaccination
The booster vaccination is different to the third primary vaccination. It is an extra dose being offered to all adults and to people who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 to help them keep their immunity after the first two primary doses of vaccine. This will help maximise their protection against COVID-19 during the winter. The booster vaccination is to be given 3 months after the second primary dose of vaccine (or third primary dose of vaccine, if you had one).
As with your primary vaccinations, you will be contacted by your GP surgery, the vaccination centre or the NHS to attend your vaccination appointment. Please do not ring your GP surgery to ask for an appointment but wait for them to contact you. You might hear via a letter in the post, an email, a text message or a phone call.
ESMO statements for vaccination against COVID-19 in patients with cancer
The European Society for Medical Oncology has issued statements for vaccination against COVID-19 in cancer patients.
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are responsible for different illnesses, including the common cold. The latest outbreak started in an animal in China and was then transmitted to humans.
The current outbreak is a new strain of coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and has not been previously diagnosed in humans. SARS-CoV-2 infects humans to cause coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.
- High temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
If you are worried about symptoms, please call NHS 111 or go to the NHS 111 coronavirus advice website. Do not go directly to your GP or other healthcare environment.
Staying at home if you have symptoms (self-isolation)
UPDATED: 2 February 2021
If your symptoms are mild, NHS 111 will usually advise you and anyone you live with not to leave your home. This is called self-isolation.
- If you have symptoms, however mild, OR you have had a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test result you should immediately self-isolate at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19. See also the Government’s COVID-19 getting tested page. If you have a positive test result, you will receive a request by text, email or phone to log into the NHS Test and Trace service website and provide information about recent close contacts
- Consider alerting people who you do not live with and have had close contact within the last 48 hours to let them know you have symptoms of coronavirus COVID-19
- Anyone who lives in your household but does not have symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days from when the first person in your home started having symptoms. If anyone else in your household starts displaying symptoms, they must stay at home for at least 7 days from when their symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in their original 14-day isolation period
- If you still have a high temperature after 7 days or longer you must continue to self-isolate until you feel better.
- You do not need to self-isolate after 7 days if you only have a cough or loss of sense of smell or taste, as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone
- If you have symptoms, you should stay as far away from other members of your household as possible. It is especially important to stay away from anyone who is clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable with whom you share a household
- Reduce the spread of infection in your home by washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser, and cover coughs and sneezes
- If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online service
- If you develop new COVID-19 symptoms at any point after ending your first period of isolation then you must follow the same guidance on self-isolation again.
It is critical that everybody observes the following key behaviours:
- HANDS – Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.The NHS has made a video to explain how to wash your hands.
- FACE – Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
- SPACE – Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).
The Government have issued guidance about how to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
This guidance provides information about:
How to protect yourself and others
It is possible to have COVID-19 with no symptoms. You can pass COVID-19 on to others if you only have mild symptoms or even no symptoms at all. The main way of spreading COVID-19 is through close contact with an infected person. When someone with COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release particles (droplets and aerosols) containing the virus that causes COVID-19. These particles can be breathed in by another person.
Surfaces and belongings, such as furniture, benches or door handles, can also be contaminated with COVID-19, when people who are infected cough or sneeze near them or if they touch them.
- Keep a safe distance (social distancing) If you must leave your home stay at least 2 metres away from people from people you do not live with or who are not in your support bubble, avoid crowded areas and face to face contact with people you do not live with.
- Remember the basics of good hygiene, such as regular hand washing, cleaning your surroundings, and covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Wear a face covering, especially in places where you must wear a face covering by law. Wearing a face covering may not be possible in every situation and some people are exempt; please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances.
- Let fresh air in (ventilation) to reduce the spread of contaminated air to other parts of the household, especially after visitors such as cleaners or tradespersons.
- Get tested if you have symptoms, such as a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell. If you have any of these symptoms click get a free NHS test or call NHS 119 to book a free COVID-19 test. You should arrange a test even if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or if you have had COVID-19 before. It is important to know if you have COVID-19 so that you stay at home, self-isolate and do not infect other people. Contacting people you may have been in contact with to advise them to self-isolate.
- Self-isolate if you have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test result. Your isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day your test was taken if you do not have symptoms), and the next 10 full days. You must stay at home at all times and not have contact with other people, except for medical assistance or shopping. There is additional guidance for those who have symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus and live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable or over 70.
- Self-isolate if you live with someone or are a contact of someone who has COVID-19. You are not required to self-isolate if you live with someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, and you are fully vaccinated, less than 18 years and 6 months old, have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial, or you are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
- Vaccination. The NHS is currently offering COVID-19 vaccines to all adults. The vaccines have been shown to reduce the likelihood of severe illness, but we do not know yet if they stop COVID-19 from spreading. Even if you have been vaccinated, you could still spread COVID-19 to others. To help protect your friends, family, and community you should continue to follow all of the advice above even if you have been vaccinated.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people
UPDATED: 3 November 2021
Given the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme, the shielding programme has now ended. If you were previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, you are advised to continue to follow the guidance contained in Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.
If you require additional care and support to help you stay safe and well, there is further advice in guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.
As restrictions are eased, the Government are advising clinically extremely vulnerable people, as a minimum, to follow the same guidance as everyone else. It is important that everyone adheres to this guidance.
However, as someone who is at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if you were to catch COVID-19, you may wish to think particularly carefully about additional precautions you might wish to continue to take. Individuals may choose to limit the close contact they have with those they do not usually meet with in order to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, particularly if they are clinically extremely vulnerable and if COVID-19 disease levels in the general community are high. It is important to respect and be considerate of those who may wish to take a more cautious approach as restrictions are lifted.
We understand you may have concerns and wish to know how you can continue to take precautions to keep yourself safe. There are things that you can continue to do to lower your risk of infection and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Although the vast majority of the population, including the clinically extremely vulnerable, will be well protected by the vaccine, no vaccine is 100% effective and there is emerging evidence that suggests that some immunocompromised and immunosuppressed individuals may not respond as well to COVID-19 vaccines as others. However, all COVID-19 vaccines should offer some degree of protection. Therefore, it is really important that you have both your first and second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are thought to be at very high risk of serious illness from coronavirus. There are 3 ways you may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable:
- You have one or more of the conditions listed below
- Your hospital clinician or GP has added you to the Shielded Patient List because, based on their clinical judgement, they deem you to be at high risk of serious illness if you catch the virus
- You have been identified through the COVID-19 Population Risk Assessment as potentially being at high risk of serious illness if you catch the virus.
People with the following conditions are automatically deemed clinically extremely vulnerable:
- Solid organ transplant recipients
- People with specific cancers:
- People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
- People with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
- People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- People having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
- People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell disease)
- People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
- Problems with your spleen, for example splenectomy (having your spleen removed)
- Adults with Down’s syndrome
- Adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (stage 5)
- Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
- Other people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decisions.
General shielding advice
The guidance for people who are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable remains as follows:
- It is important to have both your first and second dose of the coronavirus vaccine
- You should continue to consider the risks of close contact with others, especially in crowded spaces, enclosed indoor spaces with limited fresh air, and when COVID-19 levels are high in the community
- Try to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with or know
- Wash your hands with soap and water often or use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home
- Wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to stay away from other people, such as on public transport, in shops and in hospitals.
For practical tips on staying safe, see the guidance for people at high risk from coronavirus (shielding).
The Government has taken advice from clinicians, GPs, charities, the voluntary sector and patient groups.
One Cancer Voice 12-point Plan
One Cancer Voice, a group of charities led by Cancer Research UK, have issued a questions and answer leaflet for cancer patients. However, this document was last updated in June 2020, and some of the advice no longer applies.
One Cancer Voice have also issued a Covid and Cancer 12 point plan to describe how cancer services can be restored and recovered, both locally and at a national level. We would urgently like to see a national plan published, detailing how the Government and the NHS intends to manage cancer services over the next few months as we attempt to control COVID-19, and how we fully recover services and get back on track to deliver transformed cancer outcomes. Close monitoring and adequate action is needed to ensure inequalities are addressed. In addition, there are plans to significantly transform cancer services to deliver the improved outcomes that patients in this country expect and deserve.
More recently, One Cancer Voice have issued a statement for plotting a route out of the pandemic and toward world-leading cancer services. Read the Once Cancer Voice statement here: OCV Statement and an Open Letter in The Guardian to recommend the Government consider continuing with precautions to protect the clinically vulnerable people.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
The UK government pledged to test 500,000 people per day for coronavirus by the end of October 2020.
The test currently available is a PCR test to determine whether you currently have COVID-19. There are also antibody tests to determine whether you have previously had COVID-19 and have immunity to the virus are not yet available.
Patients in hospital with coronavirus symptoms have been tested to find out if they have COVID-19. Going forward, everyone admitted to hospital will be tested, regardless of the reason for their admission. If you are not in hospital and would like to be tested, you must meet certain criteria.
The Government have issue guidance on coronavirus testing (5 October 2020), including who is eligible for a test and how to get tested:
- Who can be tested
- Registering for a home test kit
- The testing process
- Testing in care homes
- List of essential workers and those prioritised for testing (England only)
You can get a throat and nose swab test to see if you currently have coronavirus. This test is most effective within 3 days of the symptoms developing.
Who can be tested
The following groups of people can ask for a test through the NHS website:
- Anyone living in England and Wales who has symptoms of coronavirus, whatever their age
- Anyone living in Scotland and Northern Ireland aged 5 and over who has symptoms of coronavirus.
The following groups of people can access priority testing through the NHS:
- Essential workers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
- Anyone in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over 5 years old who has symptoms of coronavirus and lives with an essential worker
- Children under 5 years old in England and Wales who have symptoms of coronavirus and live with an essential worker (this test must be performed by a parent or guardian).
Most people infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) have mild to moderate symptoms and there is no evidence showing that COVID-19 adversely affects the kidneys. A small proportion of patients with COVID-19 develop severe infection and require hospitalisation. Of these hospitalised patients, a small proportion have a decline in their kidney function (glomerular filtration rate, GFR). For more information, please see the COVID-19 page on the Kidney Care UK website.
The Government has issued advice about taking vitamin D supplements during the winter months, particularly if you are self-isolating. If you have kidney cancer or kidney disease, you need to be careful about taking vitamin D supplements. Please talk to you GP or healthcare professional for advice about vitamin D supplements and your condition.
If you are living with one kidney or you have lost part of a kidney due to a partial nephrectomy but you are otherwise healthy, then your risk of being infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) would likely be similar to someone with two kidneys.
However, every person is unique, and many factors can result in increased risk of COVID-19. If you are worried, you should ask your GP or healthcare team for information about your own individual risk.
The Government are advising people with long-term (chronic) kidney disease to be particularly stringent in following the social distancing guidelines. This is because people with chronic kidney disease are at increased risk of complications if they get COVID-19 infection. Most patients with kidney cancer do not have chronic kidney disease.
Treatments for kidney cancer include the following:
- Targeted therapies such as sunitinib (Sutent), pazopanib (Votrient), axitinib (Inlyta), cabozantinib (Cabometyx), and lenvatinib (Lenvima)
- Immunotherapy treatments include nivolumab (Opdivo), ipilimumab (Yervoy), pembrolizumab (Keytruda), and bevacizumab (Avastin).
The Government has issued guidance to define those people who are extremely vulnerable to severe illness if they are infected with coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes people who are on immunotherapy and/or targeted therapy, such as protein kinase inhibitors, for the treatment of advanced or metastatic cancer. These people should have been sent a letter from their healthcare team asking them to follow the ‘shielding’ guidelines to keep themselves safe.
What will happen to my cancer treatment?
You might have questions about your ongoing cancer treatment, such as:
- Will it be postponed?
- Should I still go to hospital appointments?
- How will my hospital decide whether I am a priority for treatment? Will there be national rules?
- If treatment, including stem cell transplants, are deferred and I begin to relapse will this limit my eligibility for future lines of treatment?
- Should I start chemotherapy treatment (particularly if it is a 2nd/3rd line for “mop up” ) or postpone?
- As a stage 4 patient will I be given life support if I have breathing difficulties due to the virus?
- If I get the virus and recover, will this affect my cancer treatment and outlook?
Essential and urgent cancer diagnosis, treatment and care will continue. NHS staff are working hard to ensure cancer treatments can continue in the safest and best possible way. To do this during the pandemic there may need to be some changes to how treatments are delivered.
- Cancer treatments, especially operations and chemotherapy, are riskier now than before. Cancer and its treatment can weaken the immune system, making a person more vulnerable to the virus.
- In some cases, it may be safer to delay cancer treatment or give it in a different way, to reduce the risk from coronavirus.
- Any decisions about surgery and other treatments will be based on how urgent it is and the level of risk. Your safety is a priority in making any decisions.
Changes are being made to the way services are delivered to keep patients and staff safe.
- Most hospitals have started to use more telephone consultations as a way of helping people to avoid long waits in clinics and for treatment. You may be called to arrange your treatments in this way, and planned treatments may need to be moved to help with running a smooth service.
- Some patients may have their chemotherapy at home or have fewer radiotherapy appointments, to reduce visits to hospital while continuing with their treatment.
- For some people, it may be safer to delay surgery. Your doctor may suggest a different treatment in the meantime, such as chemotherapy or hormonal therapy.
Some patients may start to see their treatment move to a different hospital as the NHS sets up ‘cancer hubs’ to coordinate treatment and ensure it can continue safely.
- In London, a ‘cancer hub’ led by The Royal Marsden in collaboration with University College London Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, is co- ordinating cancer services across the capital.
- Similar models are being set up in other parts of the country (e.g. Christie Hospital in Manchester), drawing on learning from Italy, China and London. The hubs will support hospitals across the NHS and independent sector to work together to maximise capacity and ensure that people receive the treatment that they need.
- You will remain under the care of your treating hospital and clinical specialist team and should contact them with any questions about your treatment and care.
Your cancer specialist team should discuss your treatment and care with you, including any changes. Your doctors will always have your safety at the centre of any decisions they make.
Nationally, the NHS has issued advice to clinicians to help inform these conversations with patients (updated 23 September 2020). The advice is also there to help clinicians to manage risks and prioritise treatment on the basis of clinical need.
Your clinical team are best placed to talk with you about your treatment and appointments. They will work with you to determine the best course of action in each individual situation. If you have any concerns or questions about your treatment, please speak to your clinical team.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) are in regular contact with both the pharmaceutical companies that supply medicines and the Government about any impact that the coronavirus could have on the supply of medicines to the NHS in the UK.
Pharmaceutical companies are not currently reporting any concerns about shortages of medicines or loss of manufacturing capacity as a result of COVID–19 restrictions.
There are robust procedures in place to manage the supply of medicines in the UK, and pharmaceutical companies will be taking all possible measures to secure supply for patients in line with Government guidance.
More information about the ABPI response to the coronavirus outbreak can be found here
The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has teamed up with the Society and College of Radiographers, the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support to release tailored coronavirus information for patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment: Protecting people with cancer from coronavirus when going for radiotherapy
Cancer centres have continued to run radiotherapy services throughout the coronavirus pandemic, where safe to do so. It is important that you continue to go for treatment when advised by your cancer team.
The safety of people with cancer and the staff looking after you is a top priority for hospitals. Cancer teams are using a range of precautions to protect you from coronavirus during your visit to the radiotherapy department.
Precautions might include:
- Asking if you have symptoms of coronavirus before you go for treatment, and on arrival in the department
- Changing how to get into the radiotherapy department so that you only move in areas of the hospital that are protected from coronavirus
- Minimising contact in communal waiting areas by arranging seating at least two metres apart or asking you to wait outside the department until your cancer team phones for you to go in. Relatives may have to wait outside the department
- Your cancer team wearing personal protective equipment such as face masks, gloves and aprons. They may also ask you to wear a face mask
- Asking you to wash your hands when you enter and leave the department
- Giving shorter courses of radiotherapy where possible and backed by good evidence. For example, many cancer centres are now giving people with breast cancer fewer radiotherapy doses (which means fewer hospital visits) thanks to the results of recent trials
- Delaying radiotherapy for a short time if it is safe to do so. For example, for prostate cancer, where hormone treatments can safely be used instead.
Are you self-isolating and in need of support? Find out more about how an NHS Volunteer Responder can help you.
We know that some kidney cancer patients have not received a letter to inform them that they are at the highest clinical risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) and they are extremely vulnerable. However, these people are experiencing problems in getting essential shopping and collecting repeat prescriptions, and still require help or support due to shielding or isolation.
If you don’t have support from family or friends, help is available from the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme. If you are currently not supported and need some help with shopping, a prescription collection or a friendly chat, then the NHS Volunteer Responders are ready to help. Please take a look at the following link for details on how to connect:
Help may also be available via your local council; they might have a volunteer scheme running locally. Each council website should have a call centre helpline number for help and support during these challenging times.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having an impact on everyone’s lives. During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health or that of those close to you. You may also feel concerned about the economic impact of the pandemic and how this could affect your job or finances. These are all common reactions to the difficult situation we face. Everyone reacts differently to events and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body.
Most people will find strategies that work for them and for the difficult feelings associated with the pandemic. Some people, especially those with pre-existing mental health problems, may need extra support.
The Government has provided a guide giving advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is more information on how to stop the spread of coronavirus available.
What can help your mental health and wellbeing
The following advice is given to help you with your mental health and wellbeing. More information is available in the Government’s guide:
- Think about your daily routine
- Consider how to connect with others, for example if you live alone form a support bubble with another household. The NHS Volunteer Responders can also provide a free telephone ‘check in and chat’ if you are feeling isolated. Call 0808 196 3646 to register for this service
- Help and support others
- Talk about your worries. Sharing with family and friends how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope can help. If you don’t feel able to do that, there are people you can speak to via NHS recommended helplines
- Look after your physical wellbeing. Visit One You for advice on improving your health and wellbeing, including ideas for healthy meals you can cook at home. Doing exercise and other physical activity can have a positive impact on your mood, improve your sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. You can find free, easy 10-minute workouts from Public Health England (PHE) or other exercise videos to try at home on the NHS Fitness Studio. Sport England also has tips for keeping active at home.
- Seek advice and support if you smoke or use drugs or alcohol. NHS Better Health provides information and advice on quitting smoking and helps you find a package of support that’s right for you. You can also talk to an adviser on the National Smokefree Helpline on 0300 123 1044 (call charges may apply). One You provides advice and resources to help with cutting back on alcohol. You can also call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 (call charges may apply) for advice and support and Down Your Drink provides interactive web-based support to help people to drink more safely. If you are concerned about drug use, FRANK offers information and advice, including where to get help, and provides an advice line on 0300 123 6600 (call charges may apply)
- Look after your sleep. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and good sleep practices, such as creating a restful environment and avoiding caffeine close to bedtime. The Every Mind Matters sleep page provides practical advice on how to improve your sleep.
- Try to manage difficult feelings. The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety
- Get the facts. Gather high-quality information that will help you to accurately determine your own or other people’s risk of contracting COVID-19 so that you can take reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can trust such as GOV.UK, or the NHS website, and fact-check information you get from newsfeeds, social media or other people.
- Do things you enjoy
- Set goals to give a sense of purpose
- Keep your mind active to help you feel in control and less worried, e.g., read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting
- Take time to relax and focus on the present to help with difficult emotions, worries about the future and generally make you feel better. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety. For useful resources, see Every Mind Matters and the NHS mindfulness page.
- If you can, get outside. If you can’t, bring nature in.
The coronavirus pandemic has been the main priority for the NHS since the outbreak began. There are millions of people living with cancer who still need the right care, treatment and support. NHS workers are doing their absolute best to deal with coronavirus under very difficult circumstances, but it’s vital that cancer diagnosis and treatment continues as much as possible.
The Government have told local NHS leaders that they have certain duties towards people living with cancer during this time. Macmillan have produced a guide designed to help you to understand and act on your rights, as part of Macmillan Cancer Support’s Forgotten ‘C’ campaign.
Download the guide here: Cancer and Coronavirus – know your rights in England
Everyone’s help is needed in the fight against COVID-19. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) have partnered with the NHS to launch a new service that will allow people across the UK to sign up for information on the new COVID-19 vaccine studies.
There are a number of vaccines being identified and safety-tested at the moment, but only large scale studies can give scientists the information needed about how effective they are. The new NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry will help speed up scientists’ search for people willing to be involved in vaccine studies. This could potentially lead to an effective vaccine against coronavirus being identified and made available to the UK public earlier.
The service is available to anyone aged 18 or over, living in the UK. By registering, you are not signing up to take part in a specific trial or study. Instead, researchers who are working on vaccine studies supported by the NIHR will be able to search for volunteers who have signed up to the service and contact them with further information.
We need as many people to sign up as possible in order to speed up research against COVID-19.
Key up-to-date information from the government (updated 5 November 2020)
- NHS coronavirus advice
- GOV.UK: Coronavirus (COVID-19): What you need to do
- GOV.UK: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance
- GOV.UK: Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19
- GOV.UK: Coronavirus restrictions: What you can and cannot do
- GOV.UK: Guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
- GOV.UK: Stay at home: Guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection