Thilan Bartholomeuz
Kerry Beadling Barron April 6, 2020

In this week’s column ICP Clinical Lead and local GP Thilan Bartholomeuz highlights the importance of protecting vulnerable patients

Many of you will be starting your second or third week at home this week. This may be because you have to stay at home with children or your work has shut.

But it may be that you are one of the vulnerable patients that we are particularly keen to shield from Coronavirus. There are 1.5 million across the country and they include people with organ transplants, certain cancers and severe respiratory conditions. They will all start to receive letters clarifying that they are in this group.

Because they are vulnerable we want to shield them from contact with Coronavirus any way we can. So our advice for them is to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for at least twelve weeks.

However we know that this can be difficult to do practically, especially if you live at home by yourself. This is why last week the Government and NHS asked for 250,000 volunteers to come forward and help our shielded residents. So far more than 500,000 have responded which is fantastic. They will be used for simple but vital tasks such as:

  • delivering medicines from pharmacies
  • driving patients to and from hospital or GP appointments
  • making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.

If you are a member of the public and want to be a NHS volunteer, you can still sign up to help here: https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHS

GPs and other NHS and social care staff will all be able to request help for patients who need shielding via a call centre run by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), who will match people who need help with volunteers who live near to them. This will not replace local groups helping their vulnerable neighbours but work alongside them.

For those of you who need shielding, or have loved ones that do, I hope this reduces some of your anxiety.

But remember that given everything that is happening it is normal that most people reading this will be experiencing some form of anxiety. If you are, there are lots of helpful hints from the NHS Every Mind Matters campaign specifically for staying at home during the coronavirus. This includes finding time to relax, thinking about a new daily routine and looking after your body. There’s more information here.

Thank you for continuing to stay at home, as we’ve been able to use this time to prepare the NHS and care services for the expected increase in patients.

Please stay safe and if you have any questions check the official advice at nhs.uk/coronavirus first.