Ovarian cancer and COVID-19 (coronavirus): advice for patients in Scotland

BRCA gene mutations

Updated 27th August 2021

Information for ovarian cancer patients in Scotland who are currently receiving treatment

Scotland follows a regional system of protection levels (0-4). Each level has a different set of rules on what you can and cannot do, and everyone should follow the rules for their area's level. 

You can read more about the rules for each protection level here.

If you're on the 'highest risk list' (which used to be called the 'patient shielding list'), it means you have a higher risk of serious illness if you catch Covid-19. If you're in this group, you should follow the general advice for your local protection level. There is also extra advice at protection levels 0-4 for you to follow if you choose, to help lower your risk of infection and stay safe. 

The whole of Scotland moved beyond Level 0 on 9th August. Everyone in Scotland is still being being asked to follow precautionary measures, which include wearing a face mask when required, washing your hands regularly, taking regular Covid-19 tests and keeping your distance from people not in your group. 

Scroll down to read more about the current advice for the highest risk group or visit the Scottish Government website here

The UK has approved four Covid-19 vaccines 

Three safe and effective coronavirus vaccines (developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna) are now available in the UK, and a fourth (developed by Janssen) will be available later this year. The vaccine is free and will be available to everyone who will benefit, starting with those most at risk. 

Click here to read our Covid-19 vaccine FAQs.

FAQs for patients in Scotland

Am I 'clinically extremely vulnerable'?

Medical experts have identified the people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to stay safe as their specific medical condition or their treatment places them at risk of serious illness if they caught coronavirus. 

You will receive a new letter from the Government if you are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable. These letters may take a few days to arrive.

You are likely to be considered to be at highest risk if you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and you are currently having: 

  • chemotherapy, or have had chemotherapy in the last 3 months.

  • treatment where they are taking a PARP inhibitor (Olaparib, Niraparib, and Rucaparib).

  • immunotherapy or any treatment that affects their immune system.

If you have had ovarian cancer in the past and made a full recovery, you are unlikely to be considered 'clinically extremely vulnerable'. You should still follow the Government guidance on social distancing to stay safe, but you are not at any more risk than the general public.

If you do not receive a letter from the Government then you are not considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable. You can find the list of who falls into this category in Scotland on the government website

Scottish Government Text messaging service

The Scottish government will continue to send updates to your mobile phone through the Scottish Government text messaging service. The service can also confirm that you are on the shielding list. See here for information on how to sign up: https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-shielding/

What does the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people say?

Scotland follows a regional system of protection levels (0-4). Each level has a different set of rules on what you can and cannot do, and everyone should follow the general rules for their area's level - including those on the patient shielding list. 

You can find your area's protection level and the guidelines here. 

There is also extra advice for people in the highest risk group (which used to be known as the 'shielding list') for protection levels 0-4, which you can choose to follow. 

You can read the full guidance for the highest risk group on the government website here.

The whole of Scotland moved beyond Level 0 on 9th August. 

The Scottish Government is still asking everyone in Scotland to follow some important precautionary measures to protect people who may not yet have had the vaccine, or who are unable to have it. To stay safe, everyone should:

  • get the vaccine, if you can, when offered
  • wear a face covering when required
  • wash your hands regularly, and cover your nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing
  • self isolate and take a PCR test if you have symptoms
  • take regular tests if you don’t have symptoms to reduce the risk of spreading the virus
  • meet outside if you can, and open windows when indoors
  • keep your distance from people not in your group
  • work from home, or do a mixture of home and office working if possible
  • use the Protect Scotland and Check-in Scotland apps

If you're at highest risk, you can also find extra advice in the booklet 'Balancing the risks of daily activities during coronavirus', which offers tips on staying safe. You can find the booklet on gov.scot

I've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer since March 2020 - will I still be included on the shielded patients list?

Yes. The national list of people who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable is updated weekly.  So even if you were not included in the shielding list in the first lockdown, you will be included in this lockdown.

Where can I get a copy of the latest letter for clinically vulnerable people?

People on the shielding list receive regular updates and advice by letter. 

You can find an electronic copy of the latest letter (including any alternative formats and translations that have been requested) here.

If you would like to order a copy of the latest letter and guidance in audio, braille, or large print, please contact Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) at helpline@RNIB.org.uk or call 0303 123 9999.
Where can I get support?

Ready Scotland

Ready Scotland is the official channel of the Scottish Government’s Resilience Division. It provides advice on finding extra support, and the help available for community groups. Click here for more information.

Support getting food and medicine delivered
If you have not registered for priority access to online supermarket delivery slots, you can sign up until 3 September 2021. Supermarkets offering this service are Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Iceland and Waitrose. If you sign up for the service, the Scottish Government will pass your details to these supermarkets.

NHS services

You should continue to seek support from the NHS for your existing health conditions. You can access a range of NHS services from home, including ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting your health professional through an online consultation. To find out more visit the NHS Inform website. If you have an urgent medical need, call NHS 111 or, for a medical emergency, dial 999.

Support to work

The Government is still encouraging employers to support working from home, or flexible working, where possible and appropriate. Most businesses are not planning a wholesale return to the workplace and are taking a gradual approach. The Government's advice is that you can go into the workplace along with others if you want to, or if your employer needs this. Employers should not discourage you from returning to the workplace if that is not your choice or in your best interests.

Employers have a legal duty to make the workplace safe for all staff. It’s the employer's responsibility to regularly carry out workplace risk assessments and take steps to reduce Covid risk. Employees also have a responsibility to follow safe working practices.

Find workplace safety advice for people at highest risk at gov.scot.

Find workplace risk assessment guidance for employers at gov.scot. You are also advised to do an individual risk assessment.  You can use this to highlight your own personal risk to your employer. Find guidance on carrying out an individual Covid risk assessment to check your own risk at work at gov.scot. 

If you feel unsafe in your workplace and have already spoken to your employer, you can get more advice from:

  • Occupational Health Services (if your employer offers them)
  • the Health and Safety representative in your workplace
  • HR (your employer's Human Resources team, if there is one)
  • your trade union or professional body
  • the Citizens Advice website or the free Citizens Advice Helpline on 0800 028 1456, (Monday to Friday, office hours)
  • the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)
Visit the Government website to find out about financial help if you cannot work. 

Support for women with ovarian cancer 

Ovacome's support line is now open extended hours, and you can call them for free on 0800 008 7054

You can sign up to receive our monthly patient newsletter for tips on navigating the lockdown, as well as updates on the Government guidance at the bottom of the page. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see from us, tell us on info@ovarian.org.uk. 

If you are still concerned and need any additional help, you should contact your local council who may be able to help. You can register yourself for the new online service here.

Where can I find mental health support?

We understand that it is normal to feel anxious or go through feelings of depression at this time. There are a number of organisations and services who are there to help support your mental health and wellbeing. If you’re feeling anxious or low, visit or NHS Inform for advice and support. 

If you feel like you are still struggling to cope, you can also speak to your GP.

What about my treatment? Will it be safe to go into hospital?

NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government have stated the NHS will continue to provide vital cancer treatments, and emergency and urgent care for all patients.

The NHS is working hard to diagnose,  treat and care for people with cancer, and ensure that these services return to operating as they did before the pandemic. 

Changes are being made to the way services are delivered to keep patients and staff safe. For example:

  • Most hospitals are now using more telephone or internet consultations to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital. You may be called to arrange your treatments in this way, and planned treatments may need to be moved to help with running a smooth service. You can read a helpful guide put together by Ovacome about how to prepare for these appointments here.

  • Some patients may have their chemotherapy at home or have fewer radiotherapy appointments, to reduce visits to hospital while continuing with their treatment.  

  • For some people, it may be safer to delay surgery. Your doctor may suggest a different treatment in the meantime, such as chemotherapy or hormonal therapy. 

Wider measures are also being taken by all hospitals that are treating COVID patients to ensure that COVID and non-COVID patients are kept separate. For example, there may be separate entrances for COVID and non-COVID patients, all patients admitted to hospital as an emergency will be tested for COVID, and patients going into hospital for surgery or another elective procedure will be asked to isolate for 14 days and be offered a COVID test wherever possible.

If you have an urgent medical question relating to your ovarian cancer please contact your specialist hospital care team, directly. Where possible, you will be supported by phone or online. If your clinician decides you need to be seen in person, the NHS will contact you to arrange a visit in your home, or where necessary, treatment in hospital.

For more guidance, information and sources of support please visit the British Gynaecological Cancer Society's patient information page on their website.

Will there be any problems accessing my cancer drugs?

The government is helping pharmacies to deliver prescriptions which will continue to cover the same length of time as usual. If you do not currently have your prescriptions collected or delivered, you can arrange this by:

1. Asking someone who can pick up your prescription from the local pharmacy, (this is the best option, if possible);

2. Contacting your pharmacy to ask them to help you find a volunteer (who will have been ID checked) or deliver it to you.

You may also need to arrange for collection or delivery of hospital specialist medication that is prescribed to you by your hospital care team. There are currently no medicine shortages as a result of COVID-19. The country is well prepared to deal with any impacts of the Coronavirus and we have stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues.

There is no need for patients to change the way they order prescriptions or take their medicines. Patients should always follow the advice of doctors, pharmacists or other prescribers who prescribe and dispense their medicines and medical products. The NHS has tried-and-tested ways of making sure patients receive their medicines and medical products, even under difficult circumstances. If patients order extra prescriptions, or stockpile, it will put pressure on stocks, meaning that some patients may not get the medicines or medical products they need.

What is happening with clinical trials?

80% of clinical trials have now reopened, and we hope will stay open during this new lockdown. You should contact your clinical team with questions about your individual treatment including any trials you are part of. We will update this section as soon as we know more.

What do I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

What do I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms of any infection or illness, including Coronavirus, you should:

  • arrange to have a test here

  • contact your cancer team know as you would normally.

If you fall ill from COVID-19, or any other condition, and require treatment in hospital, you will still be treated as normal and will absolutely not be denied any medical intervention because you are clinically extremely vulnerable.

What should I do if I'm experiencing ovarian cancer symptoms?

The following advice is from the British Gynaecological Cancer Society.

Some existing cancer patients have open access to their gynae-oncology service, normally via the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). If you have already had a gynaecological cancer diagnosis and have symptoms concerning for recurrence (such as persistent bloating and stomach pain), please get in touch with your CNS via their usual contact details. Please be aware that many staff have been re-deployed to look after acutely unwell patients, so there may be a delay, or a CNS from another cancer team may be covering the gynaecological cancer team.  Please be understanding with us if this is the case. We will try our very hardest to look after you and get back to you as quickly as we can.

Sometimes you may be referred to another hospital in your area, if your normal hospital is very busy. We have been working together to help get you seen and treated as soon as we can. We are all one big NHS team, now more so than ever. Please bear with us and be understanding, if this is the case.

Could the guidance change again?

Yes - the guidance is regularly updated based on the latest data available and can be changed by the government.

We'll be regularly updating this page, so you'll find the latest guidance here.

Where can I find out more about the Covid-19 vaccine?

You can find out more in our Covid-19 vaccine FAQs. You can also read more here:

NHS Inform Covid-19 vaccine page.

Do you have another question?

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered, please email us at info@ovarian.org.uk - we may not know the answer straight away, but we will do our best to find out.

Government guidance for patients and information on the coronavirus is updated regularly. Sign up here to be kept up to date with the latest government advice, information and advice from experts, and tips on your wellbeing during this uncertain time.