August Update - Advice And Support From The Trust For All Beneficiaries
This is changing all the time and varies across the 4 countries of the UK and even within them. In addition, for beneficiaries living overseas we are aware that different rules apply.
To find the latest guidance for where you live in the UK, please use the links below:
Covid-19 and Health Appointments
We have heard from a number of you that you have real concerns about attending in-person appointments for things like screening tests, blood tests or follow up appointments as you are worried about catching Covid-19. The Trust Medical Advisers along with other health experts are now very concerned that people are becoming seriously ill as a result of not attending their usual appointments or screening checks. This is as big a risk as developing Covid-19 itself, so Dr Susan Brennan has put together the following advice for you.
Advice from Dr Susan Brennan
Hospitals and GP surgeries are much better prepared for Covid-19; hospitals test regularly for Covid-19 before admission to hospital and keep anyone with the illness in a separate part of the hospital; GP surgeries do not allow anyone with symptoms to attend. This makes sure your visits are as safe as possible. In addition staff in both hospitals and GP surgeries wear protective clothing and masks (PPE) even in the Covid-free areas to further ensure your safety.
It’s really important that if you are asked by your GP or hospital to attend a health appointment, whatever the reason, that you attend. Your GP and hospital will only ask you to come if in if it is important and it is more important than ever that you keep well and healthy so that if you do contract Covid-19, you are in the best position to fight the disease. If it’s not safe to attend, your GP or hospital will let you know and may offer you an alternative such as a virtual consultation by Zoom, telephone or online. The summer is a particularly good time to arrange any health care appointments, before the cold and flu season begins and where risks of catching both Covid-19 and seasonal flu are lower.
Equally, if you develop a new symptom that you are concerned about, do call your GP in the usual way. Your GP surgery is open and providing care. They may offer you a telephone or video appointment but can arrange to see you if they feel you need an examination.
Talk to the Trust if you have any concerns
You can talk to one of the Trust Medical Advisers if you are worried or have any concerns you would like to discuss – call Susan or Dee on 01480 474074 – but their key message is that you attend your appointments and contact your GP if you develop a new symptom.
If you feel seriously ill and develop any symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, severe stomach pain or signs of a stroke, you should call 999 in the usual way. Doctors, nurses, ambulance and health care staff, as above, will minimize the risk of Covid-19 infection whilst making sure you have the best assessment and treatment possible.
We have provided lots of resources and advice on maintaining your mental health as well as your physical health over the last few months. It can be hard to keep feeling positive the longer the situation goes on and especially with the changing picture and talk of a second wave of the virus.
The Trust has recently launched the Lift-Up service as a result of a very successful pilot of the approach with a number of beneficiaries. Lift-Up is designed to help you anticipate and prepare for low mood, as well as supporting you to address your feelings if you are already feeling a bit low. You don’t need to be feeling depressed to join the programme, all of us would benefit at this anxious time. Visit our section on the website or contact Michelle at the Trust for more information.
Don’t forget the virtual Coffee Breaks are still going on and you are welcome to join – contact Annabelle at the Trust if you are interested and look out for more exciting news about beneficiary volunteer led activities to keep us supporting each other in the next few weeks.
Some of you may be familiar with FutureLearn who provide hundreds of really interesting short online course for free. I often use their courses (there is a great one on Food as Medicine) and can really recommend their format and content. The following course is currently available to help you understand the impact of the pandemic – COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health (click on the logo below), but I would highly recommend taking a look at all they have to offer.
Face Mask Exemption
In the last update we provided lots of information about suitable face masks, but we are aware that a number of you are unable to wear face masks at all, for example because it makes it difficult to breathe.
There are a number of exceptions to the mandatory requirement to wear a face mask and these include the following that are relevant to you:
- people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others - including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity.
If one of the above applies to you, you may feel more comfortable showing something that says you do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign. This is a personal choice, and is not necessary in law. The guidance says that those who have an age, health or disability reason to not wear a face covering should not be routinely asked to provide any written evidence of this.
However, if you would like to use an exemption card, the Government and a number of other organisations have produced some assistance cards for you to display on your phone or wear as a badge. You can find those using the links below.
Alternatively the Trust can provide you with an exemption letter or badge that we produce – just give us a call to request one.
Scams and Keeping Safe Online
Although we don’t want to cause unnecessary alarm, we are aware that criminals are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to carry out fraud. We are not aware of any beneficiaries who have been defrauded but thought we would highlight some simple steps you can take that will protect you from the most common Coronavirus-related scams. Here’s what you need to do:
- Watch out for scam messages
Your bank or other official organisations won’t ask you to share personal information over email or text. If you receive an email you’re not quite sure about, forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS): firstname.lastname@example.org
- Shopping online
If you're making a purchase from a company or person you don't know and trust, carry out some research first, for example, by checking to see if others have used the site and what their experience was. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, other payment providers may not provide the same protection.
- Unsolicited calls and browser pop-ups offering tech support
Never install any software, or grant remote access to your computer, as a result of a cold call. Remember, legitimate organisations would never contact you out of the blue to ask for financial details such as your PIN or full banking password.
NHS Test and Trace Scams
The NHS Test and Trace service plays an important role in the fight against coronavirus and it’s vital the public have confidence and trust in the service. However, we understand the concerns that you may have about answering an unknown number. So here’s what you need to know:
Contact tracers will only call you from the number 0300 013 5000. If you do not wish to talk over the phone you can request the NHS Test and Trace service to send an email or text instead, that will allow you to log into the web-based service.
All text or emails sent by NHS Test and Trace will ask you to sign into the contact tracing website and will provide you with a unique reference number. The service advises you to type the web address https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk directly into your browser, followed by the unique reference number given to you, rather than clicking on any link provided in the message.
The NHS Test and Trace service will never ask you:
- to dial a premium rate number to speak to them (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
- to make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind
- for any details about your bank account
- to provide your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
- for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
- to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
- to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS
If you think you have been a victim of fraud, please report it to Action Fraud via their website or by calling 0300 123 2040. If you live in Scotland, please report directly to Police Scotland by calling 101.
We sadly had to suspend our programme of HNA visits as a result of the social restrictions and because your safety was, and will always be, our priority. However, we know a number of you are keen for us to get out to see you and we have been working hard to develop an approach that makes it safe to do so. We have carried out a risk assessment using the Government guidance for working in people’s homes and have put a number of strict rules in place to protect you and our staff. A small group of staff will be piloting this approach over the next few months. So if you are due an HNA you may be contacted to discuss this. Of course it is completely your decision whether to agree to a visit or not, but we hope that most of you will feel confident with our approach and we really look forward to getting out and seeing you again in the near future. We will of course keep this under review if the situation changes.
Thank you for your time
I hope you found this update helpful. Please keep checking the website as we are adding new information all the time. The beneficiary forum is there for you to share information, advice and support – and the Trust team are always on the end of the phone 01480 474074.
Stay safe and well and keep in touch.
Director of Health & Wellbeing