• 29 April – NHS England announces second phase of NHS response to COVID-19
  • 27 April – NHS campaign urges people to get help if they need it
  • 21 April – Urgent cancer referrals fall across the UK
  • 17 April – Cancer care needs mass COVID-19 testing, says charity.
  • 21 March – Shielding measures introduced to protect people at high risk of COVID-19
  • For coronavirus and cancer updates from March and April, please see our previous blog post.

With news about the coronavirus pandemic developing daily, we want to make sure everyone affected by cancer gets the information they need during this time.

We’ll be monitoring the latest government and NHS health updates from across the UK and updating this blog post regularly as new guidance emerges. But for the most up to date guidance, please visit government and NHS websites. You can find a full list of links on our coronavirus information page.

We’d also recommend speaking to your cancer team if you have any questions or worries about coronavirus.

29 May – Scotland entering first phase of lockdown easing

Scotland has introduced the first stage of its four-phase lockdown easing strategy. From today, people from two different households will be able to meet outdoors – with groups allowed up to a maximum of 8 individuals and still keeping 2 metres apart. Further restrictions being eased include some outdoor sports and the re-opening of certain services.

For individuals who are most vulnerable to the virus and having to shield, this new development doesn’t change their situation. Ms Sturgeon stated that “I want you to know today that you have not been forgotten, and you are a central part of our thinking as we consider how we move forward.”

A list of the current measures are available on the government website.

28 May – England and Scotland launch own test and trace systems

New coronavirus test and trace programmes have been launched in England and Scotland with the aim of lifting blanket lockdown restrictions. As with Northern Ireland’s system, individuals who test positive for the virus are being approached (by phone, email, and text) to find out who they’ve been in close contact with. Any of these contacts deemed to be at risk of catching the virus will then be contacted with further instructions about isolation and testing.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that England’s system will be “voluntary at first because we trust everyone to do the right thing. But we can quickly make it mandatory if that’s what it takes.”

Wales has announced that their own system will start from June 1st.

26 May – ‘Test and protect’ strategy to roll out across Scotland on Thursday

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that the new ‘test and protect’ scheme outlined by the Scottish Government will begin on the 28th of May.

The scheme ensures that anyone with suspected symptoms of coronavirus should take “immediate steps” to be tested and wait in self-isolation for results. Those with a positive result will have to provide a list of people they have been in close contact with, who will then be contacted individually and requested to self-isolate immediately.

21 May – Northern Ireland told to brace for ‘Herculean’ number of cancer cases by Royal College

The Royal College of Surgeons in Northern Ireland has warned “we’re about to see a situation of Herculean proportions coming our way”. This comes as referrals for gynaecological cancer dropped by 70% and colorectal cancers dropped by 50% compared to last year’s figures.

21 May – Scotland to begin relaxing lockdown restrictions next week

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, has announced that lockdown restrictions are likely to be eased from the 28th of May, in a four phase approach.

The changes to lockdown will begin with individuals being allowed to meet outside with one other household. No changes to shielding advice, but phase 1 is expected to see the ‘safe restart of NHS services, covering primary and community services including mental health’.

20 May – Northern Ireland rolls out contact tracing plan

Northern Ireland has begun a contact tracing programme to identify and alert people who’ve come into contact with COVID-19 positive individuals. Health Minister Robin Swann said NI is the first UK nation to roll out the initiative, which has been credited with helping other countries lift lockdown restrictions.

15 May – Welsh Government publishes ‘roadmap’ to lockdown easing

Wales has issued a new report outlining a proposed traffic-light system to guide their route of lockdown. Covering several key areas – including business, exercise, education, travel, and socialisation – the document has proposed measures to limit the number of new cases while allowing society and the economy to function.

When it comes to shielding, the information was limited. The report states that the measures already taken will have to continue to protect the 121,000 people in Wales who are shielding. The Government have said they’ll set out proposed next steps for this group well before the current deadline for the Chief Medical Officer’s advice to them to stay at home expires in mid-June.

15 May – Cancer referrals are down in Wales

NHS Wales’ chief executive has expressed concerns over a drop in the number of cancer referrals. The number has risen from previous weeks but is still below figures from previous years. Dr Goodall stressed that the NHS is open and available to people who need it.

13 May – Nicola Sturgeon reassures Scotland that cancer is a clinical priority

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced she’ll outline changes to lockdown measures next week. In the meantime, Sturgeon has revealed that restoring the health service, including cancer services, will be towards the top of the list. During First Minister’s Questions, she confirmed that changes will be “phased”, but that cancer will be one of those priorities.

12 May – Northern Ireland releases pathway to recovery

Northern Ireland Executive has released a 5-stage plan for easing lockdown. First minister Arlene Foster says that progression will depend on key health criteria being met, rather than a set timetable like the one announced in England. In these early stages, people who are shielding are still being advised to stay home and continue as they have been.

11 May – UK government publish their COVID-19 recovery strategy

The Prime Minister has set out a plan “to rebuild the UK for a world with COVID-19“. And it includes some updates on shielding and healthcare plans in England.

Shielding: People who are considered to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 will need to continue to shield while the virus circulates, according to the phase 2 recovery strategy. But recognising the challenges of avoiding face to face contact for prolonged periods, the Government says they will introduce more support for anyone who need to shield. The document also says that an increasing understanding of who’s at risk from the virus will allow them to make shielding guidance more nuanced over time.

Healthcare: The Government says it will seek innovative new ways to strengthen health and care services in the UK, making them safer for patients and staff. This may include using more tele-medicine and remote monitoring to minimise the number of times people have to visit hospital.

Recovery plans are being published for each UK nation, so details may differ.

9 May – Uptake in those with urgent health concerns using NHS in Scotland

New research shows that people in Scotland are more likely to visit their GP or go to hospital with an immediate medical concern not related to coronavirus, compared to two weeks ago.

The Scottish Government is continuing to encourage people to seek medical help for urgent health issues not related to coronavirus, after it found that patients were delaying contacting their GP and that there was a reduction in urgent suspected cancer referrals.

4 May – Scotland sets out “test, trace, isolate, support” strategy

The Scottish Government has published a “test, trace, isolate, support” strategy to help prevent community transmission of COVID-19 and manage outbreaks of the virus.

4 May – New guidance on restarting cancer therapy after infection with COVID-19 in Scotland

A new set of guidelines have been published by the Scottish Government’s National Cancer Treatment Response Group for patients who have had their cancer therapy interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic and who have experienced symptoms of coronavirus during that time.

The latest guidance includes advice for adults restarting treatment and awaiting surgery, including people at high risk of COVID-19, such as those who have recently undergone radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

NHS Scotland have also updated their advice for cancer medicines during COVID-19.

1 May – Scotland announces testing expansion

The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, announced that coronavirus testing in Scotland will be expanded, after it was confirmed that the original target of 3,500 tests a day has been reached.

Capacity for testing in Scotland has now reached 8,323 tests a day.

1 May – Northern Ireland urged to address cancer surgery backlog by Royal College

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) in Northern Ireland has warned that the country must resume red flag, urgent and routine surgeries to address the backlog of more than 8,000 cancelled operations. The organisation has recommended continued use of private hospitals and extending operation availability across regions. RCS Director, Mark Taylor, said, “while managing coronavirus has rightly been our focus, we need now to help those people who have had their surgery delayed”.

1 May – Health and Social Care Committee launch inquiry into delivering NHS services in England

The inquiry will cover issues such as balancing coronavirus and ‘ordinary’ health and care demand as well as addressing the potential backlog of tests and treatments that have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The committee held an oral evidence session on 1 May, where cancer care was one of the areas of focus. We’ve submitted our initial response to the inquiry to ensure that cancer services are prioritised.

For coronavirus and cancer updates from March and April, please visit our previous blog post.

Katie 

If you have questions about cancer, you can talk to our nurses Monday to Friday, 9-5pm, on freephone 0808 800 4040.

We want to hear from people affected by cancer about the challenges of day to day life and changes to treatments and care due to COVID-19. Tell us how COVID-19 is impacting your life with cancer through our survey.