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Lessons from lockdown: experiences of shielding

October 23rd 2020

As we enter a lockdown, Claire Thomas asks ‘what does this mean for people who were advised to shield’?

Experience of shielding

Today marks the beginning of a two week ‘fire-break’ lockdown. All of us must stay at home, go out only for limited purposes, and not visit or meet outside with other households. For those who were advised to shield this will not be a massive change, as many have continued to live under these lockdown conditions.

Shielding was first introduced at the start of the pandemic to protect those who are at high risk of developing serious illness if they are exposed to coronavirus. The advice may have saved lives, but it also had consequences. Many people will have seen a deterioration in their health and well-being, including their mental and physical health. People’s access to medical treatment stopped or reduced, and this is still an issue.

A return to ‘shielding’?

There was much speculation over the past few weeks around a return to shielding, however the Chief Medical Officers across the four nations decided that this course of action is currently not necessary. In it’s most recent Guidance the Welsh Government confirmed that they would not be advising people to shield, instead issuing additional precautions people could make to protect themselves.

Regardless of whether shielding is paused, many people will continue to do so until a vaccine is found or circumstances change or improve. In addition, some people who were not officially advised to shield,  made a personal decision to self-isolate to protect themselves, and will continue to do so.

Learning lessons from lockdown

In our report we found that many of those advised to shield wanted clear information and guidance. Therefore, we are pleased to see that the Chief Medical Officer has written a letter to all those on the Patient Shielding List (PSL). The letter explains why they have not been asked to shield again, what they can do to keep safe and what support they can access. People value this direct contact and we would urge the Welsh Government to provide regular updates to those on the PSL.

We found that people valued the support and assistance they had received during the initial lockdown, and we welcome the decision to continue the priority food delivery slots. In addition, people appreciated being contacted by their local authority, and we would urge local authorities to continue to carry out welfare calls. While some may not want or need this, others may found it useful, particularly as a result of current restrictions.

A key issue for many is around managing their health condition. Many have seen their treatment reduced or stopped and are not clear about when services will resume. Some of those we interviewed told us that they have had appointments cancelled and postponed, and were still unclear about when these would continue. In some cases, people had not been informed about when they would be seen, and were worried their condition would worsen as a result.  Many people in this position will be worried about what impact another lockdown will have on their access to the medical support they need.

What now?

Regardless of whether the advice is reinstated, it must still be acknowledged that many people remain understandably anxious.  Many are making very long-term decisions based on the risk of catching Coronavirus.  In our report we identified a number of ways in which the Welsh Government, local authorities and health providers could support people. Crucially it is important to recognise that, as we enter another lockdown, many people have not got over the impact of the first.

Read our full report

here »


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