A group of health charities including Asthma UK, British Lung Foundation, Scope, Diabetes UK and Carers UK has called for the government to do more to support those shielding practically, emotionally and financially.
Sarah MacFadyen, Head of Policy at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation says:
“For almost a year now, hundreds of thousands of people in the UK with lung conditions such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis and COPD have been forced to stay at home and we have heard countless stories of those grappling with isolation, mental health issues such as depression, and weighed down by money worries because they have been unable to work. While the vaccine roll-out offers a beacon of hope to people with lung conditions, it is vital that the government steps up to provide more emotional, financial and practical support while they wait.
“Our research shows that worryingly, more than half (53%) of people shielding with a lung condition have been unable to follow shielding guidelines fully - putting their lives at risk - because the financial , practical and emotional burdens have been too great.
“The government must learn from mistakes made in the first lockdown where its messy communication around who should shield and how they could access medicines and food supplies was inadequate, causing distress to those most vulnerable to Covid-19. We are urging the government to work with councils and charities to ensure that everyone who needs help has easy access to food and medicines. Furlough must be made available to those shielding for as long as they need it and people must be offered support with loneliness, or referrals to specialist support if their mental health is suffering. It’s also vital that people can access the health services they need promptly to manage their condition, whether that is at home, or in person with reassurances that NHS sites have been made as safe as possible.”
- Breakdown of approximate number of people in the UK with lung disease who are believed to fall into the ‘shielding category’: 480K (severe COPD); 19K (severe asthma); 10K (cystic fibrosis), 32K (IPF). Source: Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation calculations
- Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation surveyed 3614 people in England (6th May-14th May) who had received a shielding letter/text. 1920/3614 answered that they had not been able to fully follow shielding guidance