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

BRCA gene mutations

Page last updated on 1st April 2022

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. 

The Government has relaxed most Covid-19 restrictions, although some measures are still in place. For example, wearing a face covering on in some indoor settings will be a legal requirement, and lateral flow tests will be free, until 18th April. Read about the rules and measures that apply to everyone in Scotland.

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, unless advised by your clinician or GP as they know your personal situation best. 

Read the latest advice for people at highest risk from Covid here.

Distance Aware badges 

The Government has also introduced a Distance Aware scheme to help those worried about mixing with others as we adapt to living with Covid-19. You can collect free badges and lanyards that signal to others that you need space and to take extra care around you. Find out more 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'?

At the start of the pandemic, medical experts identified individuals who needed to follow shielding guidance to stay safe as their medical condition or treatment meant they had a higher risk of serious illness if they caught Covid-19. These people were called 'clinically extremely vulnerable', and later 'the highest risk group'. 

You will receive a 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 highest risk list. 

The Scottish Government is in the process of relaxing restrictions although some measures are still in place, such as wearing face coverings in public spaces. The Government is also advising people on how protect themselves and others: 

  • get the vaccine or the vaccine booster 
  • take regular lateral flow tests - especially before mixing with other people or visiting a hospital or care home
  • follow the guidance on self-isolating and booking a test
  • wearing face coverings on public transport and in shops and indoor public places including workplaces, unless exempt
  • limit the amount of social contact you have with other households - gather in groups of no more than three households
  • avoid crowded places and keeping a safe distance, especially indoors, from people who are not in your own household
  • work from home if you can
  • wash your hands regularly, and cover your nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing
  • open windows when meeting indoors
  • use the apps: COVID status, Protect Scotland and Check-in Scotland

See the rules and protective measures that apply to everyone in Scotland.

If you're on the 'highest risk list' (which used to be called the 'patient shielding list'), you should follow the general advice, unless advised by your clinician or GP as they know your personal situation best. 

Read the latest Scottish Government advice to people on the Highest Risk List.

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.

Shopping
Those who are at highest risk from Covid can follow the same rules, advice and guidance as everyone else now.  This includes shopping for food. 

Supermarkets are continuing with measures to make it safer to shop in-store. These include providing areas where you can clean your hands, trolleys and baskets.

If you go to the shops, you can make getting your shopping safer by:

  • reducing the number of times you go shopping
  • going to the shops at quieter times
  • putting on your face covering before touching baskets or trolleys
  • cleaning the handles of your trolley or basket before you use them
  • using hand sanitiser when you arrive and leave
  • avoiding touching doors with your hands 
  • using contactless payment if you can

If you need additional support because you have a hidden disability such as autism, dementia, visual or hearing impairment, or anxiety, you can alert a member of staff at the Welcome Desk.

Read the section 'Going shopping' on Gov.Scot for more information.

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's advice now is that people in the highest risk group can go into work if they cannot work from home. Everyone on the highest risk list should consider their own individual circumstances when taking decisions about what’s right for them. They should keep following any previous advice from their clinicians.

Visit 'Advice on working' on Gov.Scot to read the advice in full.

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?

The Government is now asking people at highest risk of Covid to follow the same advice as the rest of the population and hopes that this will have a positive impact on their wellbeing. However, they understand this may also feel daunting. You may want to visit Clear Your Head for practical advice to deal with feelings of uncertainty

You can find help online from the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH). Or you can talk to someone over the phone:

  • Breathing Space - 0800 83 85 87 (Monday to Thursday: 6pm – 2am, Friday to Monday: 6pm – 6am)
  • Samaritans - 116 123 (Every day: 24 hours a day)
  • Red Cross - 0808 196 3651 (Every day: 10am – 6pm)

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?

If you’re on the Highest Risk List in Scotland, you’re now high priority for booking a PCR test if you have symptoms of Covid-19. This measure is being taken to ensure timely access to PCR testing, as rising rates of Covid infections are resulting in increasing demand. This means if you develop Covid symptoms you’ll be able to get a PCR test quickly.

If you don't have symptoms, you should continue doing regular Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests.

If you develop symptoms, book a PCR test as soon as you can by:

When asked if the person that needs a test is an essential worker, select yes online or say yes on the phone. 

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.