Charities warn lack of clear lockdown plans for vulnerable people is leaving millions at risk

29 May 2020
Parliament

A group of leading healthcare charities including Ovarian Cancer Action are warning today that millions of vulnerable and extremely vulnerable people are getting mixed and confused messages about the easing of shielding measures potentially putting their health and safety at serious risk.

Charities including Macmillan Cancer Support; British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK; MS Society; National Voices; Versus Arthritis; Kidney Care UK and Cystic Fibrosis Trust are publishing an open letter today calling for UK Governments to publish clear, consistent advice on ‘shielding’ measures for ‘extremely vulnerable’ people to ensure they protect themselves and can access support as lockdown eases.

They are also calling for clear guidance for the wider group of vulnerable people who have not been asked to ‘shield’ but will be at greater risk as lockdown is lifted and they make decisions on whether they and members of their household leave home, go to work or school. 

The UK government has set out a detailed national roadmap in May for other areas of society such as schools, businesses and public spaces, which the Prime Minister updated yesterday (28th May) with a further easing of lockdown. But those in the clinically ‘extremely vulnerable’ cohort who had been advised shield themselves in March have simply been told to ‘continue to do so'(1).

As millions face months more of total lockdown because of their extreme vulnerability, only a top line commitment has been made to look at how to ‘better support’ them ‘soon’(2). 

29-year-old Sarah Davis is a freelance artist and sculptor and lives in London. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2017 and had to have a stem cell transplant in 2018. She says: 

“The confusion and uncertainty surrounding those of us who are shielding is causing me a lot of anxiety. I feel like the easing of lockdown for the many has left vulnerable people behind. A more inclusive approach to lockdown easing would feel a lot fairer. We have had no new information in weeks. I feel stuck and isolated, unable to work in my art studio or move to a new house as planned. Having been ill with cancer in the past, I do have coping mechanisms, but it is still a very triggering experience - to be locked away again and not know when it will all end.”

Steven McIntosh, Director of Policy, Campaigns & Influencing at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

 “The last few months have shown that clear, consistent, well-communicated advice on lockdown is vital for the public. Those who are most vulnerable and often most isolated cannot be forgotten or left behind whilst detailed lockdown plans are announced for the rest of society. Governments must set out guidance and support for people living with conditions like cancer, who face difficulties in accessing food and medicine, are making difficult decisions about returning to work, or, for the most at risk, facing long-term protective lockdown.”

(1) Downing Street Press Conference 28th May 2020

(2) As above

You can read our joint letter in full to see what action we're collectively asking the government to take.