Latest Update – Advice & Support from the Trust

Government Guidance

As you will no doubt be aware, the Government updated its advice this week. The key new advice is to stay at home in order to reduce your day-to-day contact with other people and reduce the spread of the infection.

For the 3 weeks from 23 March (at least) you should STAY AT HOME and only leave the house for one of four reasons:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
  • any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

Even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people.

There are only two exceptions to this rule:

  • where the gathering is of a group of people who live together – this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.
  • where the gathering is essential for work purposes – but workers should try to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.

In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This excludes funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.

How to protect your mental health while self isolating

mindfullness

Guidance for the Most Vulnerable – Shielding

If you are in the most vulnerable category of people you will have received specific separate guidance by email or letter.

If you have one of the underlying health conditions listed below, you are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of coronavirus requiring admission to hospital.
Shielding is a practice used to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus.

You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter from the Government, but be aware that this period of time could change.

Visits from people who provide essential support to you such as carers who provide personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue, but carers and care workers must stay away if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). All people coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house and often while they are there.

Click here to see the tips and advice in our last update about being prepared with back up support if possible.

If you have someone else living with you, they are not required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves. They should do what they can to support you in shielding and they should stringently follow guidance on social distancing, reducing their contact outside the home. If you care for but don’t actually live with someone who is extremely vulnerable, you should still stringently follow the rules for social distancing.

This most vulnerable group consists of the following

1 - Solid organ transplant recipients.

2 - People with specific cancers:

    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • 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 which 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

3 - People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD

4 - People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)

5 - People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection

6 - Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

Shielding is not compulsory. In some cases, for example where someone has a prognosis of less than 6 months, they may make a personal decision that it is more important to spend time with their family.

Guidance if you have a Hearing Impairment – SignHealth have been producing signed videos. Click here to view them.

Routine Healthcare

You will be aware that most routine health appointments have been cancelled.

We know that a number of you are waiting for consultant’s appointments or for surgery. We understand that only the most urgent operations will go ahead over the coming months and expect all non-urgent surgery and appointments to be cancelled. This will be the case whether you are being treated on the NHS or privately.

It is worth noting that you could choose to take a supplement of Vitamin D every day either 12.5ug or 25ug. This helps lots of things but also the immune system which is important in fighting infection. You can also keep some Vitamin C in- dissolvable tablets 1000 mcg . If you start to feel unwell you can then take 1000mg Vitamin C daily while you are unwell.

There is no evidence Vitamin C helps prevent infection but some evidence it helps fight infections.

PIP Applications

We told you in the last update that PIP assessments were being suspended. We have now been made aware that for anyone who has been sent the form to make a PIP application the deadline to return the form has automatically been extended by 3 months from the date you received your form. You do not need to ring up and ask for this extension, it is automatic.

The Trust are still offering advice and supporting information for your PIP application so please let us know when you get your form as usual.

Shopping

Supermarkets are giving priority to the vulnerable, elderly and NHS workers, with restrictions in-store and online. The exact way it works varies from supermarket to supermarket, so check - but NHS workers, for instance, may be asked to show their NHS badge when entering a store. Many have also brought significant restrictions, limiting shoppers to buying a certain number of the same item, restricting opening times and in some cases stopping accepting online orders altogether. Shopping delivery slots are very limited as is the ability to get through to customer service teams.

It has been announced today (27 March) that all major UK Supermarkets will use a government database of 1.5m people deemed as vulnerable  - the Extremely Vulnerable People (EVP) database - during the Coronavirus crisis to allocate priority Home Delivery slots. We have had a number of enquiries from beneficiaries about the fact that many supermarkets are only delivering shopping to people who are on the register of EVP and that when they have tried to register there is no suitable category to recognise their disability.

We are aware of this issue and are trying to find a solution. In the meantime, our suggestion is to check with your local branch, particularly if you are known to them as a disabled-person and have regular deliveries. We are aware that one beneficiary who followed an earlier tip and mentioned their disability in the delivery instructions area on an earlier delivery, has received a notification that they have been added to the priority list without having to make an application. In addition they have been able to arrange with their local village shop a system to place an order over the phone which they then collect (the staff put it in the car) and the beneficiary just enters the shop to pay on card.

One alternative that is emerging in many areas is that local councils are setting up a Hub so they can coordinate the needs of individuals with the volunteers and volunteer services. These are in the early stages but they can put you in touch with a service to help bring shopping to you (as well as other services). It is worth looking on your local council website, or contact us at the Trust and one of our volunteers will help you to find your local service and get in touch.

Here's the latest on what supermarkets are doing. Note – this is changing extremely rapidly.

Store                   Max no of same item you can buy (in-store and online) Priority shopping for elderly/ vulnerable/ NHS workers Still accepting online orders? Changes to store opening times
Aldi 4 on all products NHS, police and fire service workers get priority Sun 9.30am-10am (8.30am-9am in Scot) Does not do home delivery All stores now closing at 8pm. Sun opening unchanged (except in Scot where stores close at 6pm)
Asda 3 on all food, toiletries and cleaning items NHS workers get priority in larger stores on Mon, Wed & Fri 8am-9am In theory yes, for new & existing customers – though very difficult Reduced to 8am-8pm
Co-op 2 on selected items in-store Vulnerable customers & their carers get priority Mon-Sat 8am-9am, Sun 10am-11am - though check your local store Yes - but can only order up to 20 items per shop Most reduced to 7am to 8pm (24hr stores with petrol stations close 11pm)
Iceland 2 on most items, 1 on some (eg, pasta and toilet roll) Mon-Sat, elderly and vulnerable get priority in first hour of trading, NHS staff in last hour Only for elderly or vulnerable customers, or those self-isolating Reduced across many stores - check your branch for details
Lidl Limits on some product lines No special measures Does not do home delivery Changes to some stores - check your branch for details
Morrisons 3 on all products bought online NHS workers only can shop 7am-8am Mon-Sat. Also launching a call centre to take phone orders from customers who don't shop online In theory yes, for new & existing customers – though very difficult. Morrisons has turned off its app so can only book online Reduced to 8am-8pm Mon-Sat. Sun opening times unchanged.
Ocado (online only) Essential items limited to 1-2 per order N/A – online-only Only from existing customers, and very large queues. Customers can only book one delivery slot every 7 days N/A – online-only
Sainsbury's 3 on groceries, 2 on other in-demand products (eg, toilet roll & UHT milk) Mon, Wed & Fri 8am-9am dedicated to elderly, vulnerable and carers. Mon-Sat 7.30am-8am dedicated to NHS and social care workers Still open to new/existing customers though can struggle to book a slot. Priority given to over-70s/those with disabilities All stores open 8am-8pm Mon-Sat (from 7.30am for NHS and social care workers only) Sun hours unchanged
Tesco 2 on toilet roll/paracetamol, 3 on all other products 1hr between 9am and 10am every Mon, Wed and Fri, at all stores except Express. 1hr before opening at large stores every Sun for NHS Still open to new/existing customers though can struggle to book a slot. Large 24hr stores closed 10pm to 6am until further notice, though some with pharmacies will stay open beyond 10pm
Waitrose Max of 3 on some groceries, 2 on toilet roll packs - other items such as soaps 'capped' First hour of opening across all stores for elderly & vulnerable, & their carers. Priority checkout service & essentials kept aside for NHS staff Not officially closed its online grocery service but website frequently down Some stores may close earlier than usual - check with your local store

Tips & Advice While You are at Home

  • If you are struggling financially you can apply for a 3 month mortgage holiday. It's worth noting that if you take a mortgage holiday you WILL still be charged interest for the time you're not making payments. But you won't have to pay it back immediately – it'll be added on to the total cost of your mortgage and factored into repayments when you start making them again. Speak to your lender at the earliest opportunity and in an emergency response to coronavirus, lenders are allowing homeowners who are up to date with mortgage payments to 'self-certify' when they apply for a mortgage holiday. This essentially means lenders won't need to do a thorough check on your finances, like they normally would when you re-mortgage – instead they'll rely on you giving an accurate representation of your financial status.
  • Sky Sports customers can now 'pause' their subscription (as there is no sport being played) - they won't let you leave your contract penalty-free, but will now allow you to 'pause' your subscription - which means you can stop paying for the time being. You can do this online - log in to your account and go to the pause Sky Sports page. 

​While your account is paused, you won't be charged but you will still have access to all 11 Sky Sports channels. As soon as live sports returns, Sky says it'll reinstate your subscription - you won't need to do anything. The pause doesn't affect the overall length of your contract - so if you're midway through an 18-month contract and pause for two months, your contract end date will remain the same.

If you're a Virgin customer with Sky Sports, you will also be able to pause your subscription shortly, though full details haven't been announced yet. BT Sport hasn't given a blanket promise to all customers that they can pause their subscription, though it says to call it if you're unhappy. However it has said that customers on its new flexible TV package can pause their Sport subscription and switch to a different pack if they want to.

Combating Lonelinessicons depicting elements of healthy lifestyle

Making sure that you stay in touch with friends, family and neighbours can help to ease any feelings of loneliness you and others may experience while in isolation. Technology can help with this enormously.

  • Call your friends, colleagues and relatives regularly on the phone and see how they are
  • Create WhatsApp groups with neighbours, family or friends. Share how you’re getting on and ask other people how they are
  • Use Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date and keep in touch
  • The video app “Zoom” allows you to hold group virtual meetings with friends and family

For more information and advice. Visit the Campaign to End Loneliness website.

MIND also have some really useful information and tips, on their website.

And remember you can call us at the Trust and we can put you in touch with a volunteer who will keep in touch and provide friendly chat and a listening ear. Our volunteers are all trained and highly confidential and are delightful company (even virtually).

Help From the Trust

Over the next few weeks members of the Trust Health & Wellbeing team will continue to make wellbeing calls to as many of you as possible who we know have an underlying health condition or live alone.

In anxious times like this it is often reassuring and helpful to have someone to talk to, so if you would like to be put in touch with one of our beneficiary volunteers for a regular call we can arrange this for you.

Being socially isolated can be stressful and have an impact on your mental health causing increased anxiety and low mood. Let us know if you are isolating yourself and we will keep in touch and check you have what you need to get through this difficult time.

You can call us – 01480 474074

Email us – hello@thalidomidetrust.org

Or join us and chat to other beneficiaries on the Forum.

Katy Sagoe Dr Dee Morrison MB ChB Dr Susan Brennan MBChB MRCGP
Director of Health & Wellbeing Medical Adviser Medical Adviser

Updated 27/03/20