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

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Updated  10th September 2020

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

In March, many ovarian cancer patients and other clinically extremely vulnerable people were asked to follow special advice ("shielding") to protect them against Covid-19, as they had a high risk of becoming seriously ill if they caught the virus. 

Shielding has now been paused in Wales and in the rest of the UK. A letter has been sent to people on the Shielding Patients List (SPL) in Wales confirming that from 16th August they no longer need to shield. 

We understand that the pause to shielding in August may be a big relief to many. But that it may also cause some mixed emotions, and make others feel anxious or worried about their health. Please be assured that support will still be available for you after 16th August to help you manage as shielding relaxes. 

Am I 'clinically extremely vulnerable'?

Medical experts have identified the people who need to follow shielding guidance to stay safe if their medical condition or their treatment gives them a high risk of serious illness from coronavirus.  

You will be on the Patient Shielding List and asked to follow the latest shielding guidance if you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and you are currently having: 

  • Ovarian cancer patients who are currently having chemotherapy, or have had chemotherapy in the last 3 months.
  • Ovarian cancer patients who are currently having treatment where they are taking a PARP inhibitor (Olaparib, Niraparib, and Rucaparib).
  • Ovarian cancer patients who are having immunotherapy or any treatment that affects their immune system.

If you have had ovarian cancer in the past and made a full recovery, you will not be part of the shielding group. 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.

What is the latest shielding guidance in Wales?

Shielding is paused in Wales from 16th August, which means clinical vulnerable people no longer need to shield.

From 16th August:

  • You no longer need to stay 2 metres or 3 steps away from people you live with or who are part of your extended household
  • you can go to work, if you cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVIDsecure (has taken reasonable measures to minimise risk to employees);
  • children who have been shielding can return to school when schools re-start;
  • you can go out for any reason, including going to shops to buy food but you should stay 2 metres or 3 steps away from other people.

To help keep yourself safe:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Stay 2 metres or 3 steps away from people you do not live with or are not part of the one other household your family may be joined with (also known as an extended household).
  • Eat healthily and take regular exercise.
  • Remember to take any medication your doctor has told you to take.
  • Get your free NHS jabs to protect you from other diseases such as measles (you can speak to your doctor about this).
  • Get your free NHS annual flu jab when it becomes available in the autumn (you can speak to your doctor about this). 

I live in Caerphilly – do I need to shield again?

A range of new measures have been introduced across Caerphilly borough to help prevent the spread of a local outbreak of coronavirus. These measures apply to everyone living within the Caerphilly County Borough Council area (you can check if you live in the area here). They include:

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave the Caerphilly County Borough Council area without a reasonable excuse;
  • Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in shops;
  • People will only be able to meet outdoors – meetings with other people indoors and extended households will not be allowed for the time being. No overnight stays will be allowed.

However, shielding is not being restarted for extremely vulnerable people in Caerphilly at this time. 

We understand that this news, plus the rise in the number of cases in the area, may cause you to feel worried or anxious. Please know that you will be kept on the Shielding Patient List if you were shielding up to the 16th August, and the Chief Medical Officer (who is monitoring the situation carefully) will write directly to you if anything changes and if you need to shield again.

In the meantime, we recommend following this guidance to help you stay safe:

  • Try to keep contact outside the household to a minimum 
  • Avoid all situations either inside or outside where you are not able to keep 2m always from those outside your household
  • Use priority shopping slots for supermarkets or shop at quieter times of day
  • Keep up good hygiene practices such as washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water regularly and use hand sanitiser where hand washing facilities are not available 
  • Avoid touching surfaces that have been touched by others 
Click here to find out more about the situation in Caerphilly.
Why has shielding been paused?

Shielding has been paused because infection rates of coronavirus in Wales are now very low and so your chances of catching the disease are much lower than they were when shielding first began. 

Is my name being kept on a shielding list?

Yes, the NHS will continue to maintain the Shielded Patient List allowing the Welsh Government to give targeted advice and support to those who are most vulnerable and to change advice and support.

Will I be asked to shield again in the future?

Those who have received a shielding patient letter remain on the Shielding Patient List. Shielding guidance will continue to be updated to reflect the most recent advice from the Chief Medical Officer. If there is a significant change to the advice, the CMO will write to all patients on the list setting out any changes.

All four nations of the United Kingdom together are looking at implementing individualised risk assessments - a tool which is currently under development - so that if rates of infection do increase they won't have to advise everyone who has been shielding has to shield again. The goal is for patients to receive their own individual risk assessment based on their medical condition, stage of treatment and location. This is not currently in place, but the Welsh Government is hoping that if there is any need for shielding to return in the future, they can use this tool instead to determine who needs to shield.

Where can I find support?

You will still be able to access priority delivery slots for supermarket deliveries and the prescription delivery service will continue until the end of September. 

Food boxes will be stopping.  If you currently receive a food box, you will receive your last delivery in the week ending 16th August, on your usual delivery day. If you still need support after the 16th August and you do not have anyone to help you, speak with your local council. 

If you do not have enough money to pay your bills, it is important to seek help and to do this as early as possible. Call Citizen’s Advice free on 03444 77 20 20 or visit the Citizens Advice website. If you need help from the welfare system, you can also visit the Government website or call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644 (0800 328 1744 for Welsh language). You can also apply online for the Welsh Government’s Discretionary Assistance Fund payment here or by calling free on 0800 859 5924. 

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by your employer, or somebody who gives you a service, then the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) offers a free advice service which you can access by calling 0808 800 0082, by text phone on 0808 800 0084 or by visiting their website.

What should I do about work?

As the level of coronavirus in the community is low, it is now safer for you to return to work as long as precautions are in place. It is impossible to eliminate all risk but there is a lot that employers can do to minimise the risk to their employees. 

After the 16th August employers should be making risk assessments for employees who have been shielding. From then you should only return to work if you cannot work from home, and your place of employment is COVID safe.

When planning a return to work it is advisable to talk with your employer as early as possible about how employees are being kept safe. There is advice on the Welsh Government website and information on the Health and Safety Executive website with steps employers should be taking to make a workplace COVID secure. 

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

If, at any point, you think you have developed symptoms of coronavirus, such as a new, continuous cough and/or high temperature (above 37.8 °C), seek clinical advice using the using the NHS 111 Wales COVID online service. If you do not have access to the internet, call NHS 111. Make sure you mention that you are an ovarian cancer patient who has been considered to be at risk. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

In an emergency, call 999 if you are seriously ill. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre, or a hospital.

To help the NHS provide you with the best care if you need to go to hospital as a result of catching coronavirus, please prepare a single hospital bag. This should include your emergency contact, a list of the medications you take (including dose and frequency), any information on your planned care appointments and things you would need for an overnight stay (snacks, pyjamas, toothbrush, your medication etc). If you have an advanced care plan, please include that.

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.

What about my treatment?

Your hospital or clinic will contact you if any changes need to be made to your care or treatment. Please phone your hospital or clinic if you have any questions about your appointment. 

Some hospital appointments may need to be cancelled, postponed changed to be over the phone or the internet. You can read a helpful guide put together by Ovacome about how to prepare for these appointments here. This is part of the plans to help the NHS to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. You will still be able to contact your hospital care team if you have an urgent issue.

If you do not feel ready or able to collect your own prescriptions you can:

  1. Ask someone to pick up your prescription from your local pharmacy to help (this is the best option).
  2. If you do not have anyone who can help, telephone your pharmacy and ask them to deliver your prescription. Let them know you are in a high-risk group.

You may also need to arrange any special medication prescribed to you by your hospital care team to be collected or delivered to you.

Can carers and support workers come to my home?

Carers or support workers who support you with your everyday needs can continue to visit you, unless they have signs of coronavirus.

All carers or support workers must wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds when they enter your home and often while they are in your home. 

How can I look after my mental health during this time?

There are all sorts of ways to look after your mental health while shielding. You can find our separate page on this here.

Specifically in Wales,  you can contact the C.A.L.L helpline on 0800 132 737 or by texting "help" to 81066. Or go to the website here.

Where can I read the latest guidance?

You can find the latest guidance for Wales here.

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered, have a look at our wider Coronavirus FAQs and if we still haven’t covered it 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 is regularly being updated. 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.