“For almost a year now, hundreds of thousands of people in the UK with lung conditions… have been forced to stay at home." Sarah MacFadyen, Head of Policy at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation
A group of health charities has called on the government to do more to support people who are shielding.
The organisations, including Asthma UK, British Lung Foundation, Scope, Diabetes UK and Carers UK, say many of those who are shielding are in desperate need of practical, emotional and financial help.
Sarah MacFadyen, Head of Policy at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation said:
“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.
“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.”
She added that research by Asthma UK suggests that 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.”
She called for the furlough scheme to be made available to those shielding for as long as they needed.
“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.”