Many people received letters directly from NHS England that advised about extra precautions they should take (shielding) to reduce their risk of COVID-19 infection. We were requested to check against our databases for any other patients who may be classed as especially vulnerable. For cancer patients this includes:
- People on active chemotherapy and within 30 days of their last treatment
- People who are in immunotherapy or continuing antibody treatments, or targeted cancer treatments which can affect their immune system
- People with lung cancer undergoing curative radiotherapy
- People with cancers of the blood at any stage
- People who have undergone bone marrow or stem cell transplants within the last 6 months or who are still on immunosuppressant drugs
NHS England also provided the letter to The Christie to be sent to any additional patients who have been identified.
It has come to our attention that this letter was sent to some individuals who do not require to be shielded:
- People who acted as donors for bone marrow transplants
- Patients who received intraperitoneal chemotherapy as part of HIPEC – this has no lasting effect on the immune system
- Patients who have undergone a kidney procedure at another hospital
- Patients who have received SACT (chemotherapy) treatment more than 30 days ago (unless directly advised by their specialist of a need to shield)
We apologise for any confusion that has been caused and are contacting patients in the above groups to confirm the situation.
All patients on active treatment or who have recently completed treatment can use The Christie Hotline (0161 446 3658), available 24 hours a day, if they have any concerns or worries at any time of the day or night.
A helpline for patients and relatives is now operational on 0161 956 1900. It is manned by senior nursing staff from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week including bank holidays.
It is to offer psychological support for patients whose treatment has been paused or stopped. It is also to support relatives and loved ones of inpatients who are receiving end of life care and unable to have visitors due to infection risks.
Additional advice for Christie patients
We appreciate that this is a worrying time for you and your loved ones. We would like you to have some more information that we hope you will find useful. Many patients with cancer will now have received a letter from Public Health England (PHE) with advice on how to protect yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. This letter may have come directly from PHE or via The Christie since we were asked to circulate it. This letter helps you gain extra support such as online food delivery slots and food parcels from the government. It may also provide support to allow you to work from home.
The advice in the letter is for many people with many types of illnesses. It is therefore hard for PHE to personalise this advice for everybody, particularly for cancer patients having many different types of treatment. We have therefore written this information for our patients that only have cancer. This will allow personalisation of your care to ensure that you are safe, but can also gain support from other members of your family you may be living with, to maintain your morale and mental well-being.
We know that different cancers and different treatments have different effects on the immune system. Some people with cancer will need to follow the PHE advice very closely. Other patients who are less likely to become very ill from COVID-19 may want to take a more relaxed approach. This would aim to keep you safe but may also be easier for you to cope with.
This slightly more relaxed approach could include closer contact with those you are living with, including sharing bedrooms and other spaces such as bathrooms and communal living areas. This will of course depend upon the layout of your particular home. Some people may not have a house or flat with a spare bedroom and a suitably large living space to stay completely isolated from others. If, like many people, you are in this situation, it is obviously still safe to stay at home and like all of us, you should follow PHEs advice about cleaning and handwashing.
It could also be appropriate to go for short trips outside in the fresh air to improve your morale. However, you should still keep more than 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. At this stage we wouldn’t advise shopping, for example, where there are crowds of people.
It is therefore important that you discuss your own personal circumstances with a member of your treating team when you next have an outpatient appointment (in person or on the telephone). You can then agree a plan that is best for you as an individual to keep you safe, but also to maintain your wellbeing at this very difficult time.
Finally if you do develop any symptoms, including a cough or fever, it is important that you contact The Christie Hotline rather than 111. Our staff have detailed information about your case and your cancer that 111 does not have. We can provide better and more specific advice for you. Of course, you should dial 999 for any medical emergencies, as you would normally.
We totally appreciate that having cancer at this time is very worrying for you and your family. At The Christie, we want to continue to give you the best possible care to keep you safe and maintain your physical and mental wellbeing.