Answers to some of the questions we are being asked most often through our helpline. 

I have a health condition. Where can I go for advice or support?

If you have a health condition, like heart disease, asthma or diabetes, this can be a very worrying time. Many health helplines are still open, so if you’re concerned about managing your condition, any symptoms or staying well, you could give them a call. You may want to speak to:

Although 111 is very busy, you can still call them for advice about any symptoms you’re experiencing and advice about where to get support.

If you’re seriously ill or injured and your life may be at risk, call 999 immediately.

How should I pay someone back if they bought me food or other essentials?

If you are self-isolating and need to pay someone for food or other deliveries, but don’t have online banking or enough cash, you may want to pay them by bank transfer or cheque.

If you are not registered for telephone banking, call your bank and ask them to help you set it up. The Money Advice Service offers guidance about making bank transfers.

You can also use a cheque to pay someone if they accept it. If you don’t have a cheque book, call your bank and they should issue one free of charge.

Should I let my cleaner/maintenance worker into my home?

Government guidance is to reduce day-to-day contact with other people as much as possible. You should not let a cleaner or tradesperson into your home if:

  • You or they have symptoms of coronavirus, even mild, or had them within the past 7 days
  • You are self-isolating
  • You are being shielded (because you are extremely vulnerable to coronavirus)

However, you may need to let a tradesperson into your house if your safety will be at risk if a repair isn’t carried out, for example, if you need help with emergency plumbing. If a tradesperson does come in to your home, make sure you maintain a distance of 2 metres (3 steps) from each other.

How can I get my food and prescriptions if I must self-isolate?

If you don’t have friends, family or neighbours who can support you to get shopping and other essentials, think about using online shopping and prescription delivery services where possible. Anyone making deliveries should leave them on the doorstep or outside.

We are aware that many such services are currently struggling to meet demand. Many charities and local community groups are working hard to try and support people who are having to self-isolate.  Contact your local council to find out about support in your area, or your local Age UK.

If you live in England and received an NHS letter and/or SMS message because you have a medical condition that puts you at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus, you can register for extra support. This could include help with getting food, other essential deliveries and care. You can register online or call 0800 028 8327. If you’re not sure if you or a person you support are ‘extremely vulnerable’, you can still register anyway.

How can I stay fit and well if I can’t leave my house?

It’s important for your wellbeing to stay in touch with friends and family, by phone or Skype or Face Time. The government also advise opening your windows regularly to let in fresh air, and getting some natural sunlight where possible. Try to get outside in the garden if you have one. You can go for a walk outdoors once a day if you stay more than 2 metres (3 steps) from others. If this isn’t possible for you, you can find ideas for exercise you can do at home on the NHS website. And look out for exercise programmes on television. Staying as active as possible, as well as keeping to a healthy, balanced diet and drinking enough water are all important to your health and wellbeing.

How can I support my older relative if they are self-isolating?

Think about delivering food and other essentials, such as prescriptions. Only drop off essentials if you are well yourself, and ensure you follow good hygiene practices, as explained on the NHS website. Leave supplies on the doorstep instead of going inside.

You could also help them in other ways, such as sending books, magazines or films. If they’re online, you could play games such as chess or Scrabble with them or introduce them to streaming services. Call them regularly. Encourage them to stay active at home and keep in touch with friends who are also self-isolating and might need some support.

How can I support older people in my community who are self-isolating?

Visit our neighbourhood response page for ideas, and things to think about to keep yourself and the local community safe.

I’m not unwell but would like advice about coronavirus. Who can I call?

You can call your GP or NHS 111 but they may be very busy. The most up-to-date advice from the government is available online through the NHS website. Many health charities also have information about coronavirus for people with different conditions. For example, you might want to speak to British Heart Foundation, British Lung Foundation, Macmillan or Diabetes UK.

If you have a clinical condition, such as severe asthma, which puts you at a particularly high risk of getting seriously ill with coronavirus, the NHS should have contacted you on Monday 23 March with specific advice. This advice can also be found on the government website.

Should I still let carers into my home?

Yes – it’s important to keep receiving any essential help you get with washing, dressing and preparing meals, for example. Your care worker should have been given guidance about extra steps they must take to protect you, such as following hand hygiene guidance, and staying away if they show any symptoms of coronavirus. They should wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as aprons, gloves, fluid-repellent surgical masks and eye protection where necessary.

My carer can’t visit because they’re self-isolating – what should I do?

If your care is arranged through an agency, the agency should send a different care worker to support you. Call the agency if this hasn’t happened.

Councils have wide powers to assist residents with care needs once they are aware of their situation. They can respond very quickly where required. If your care was arranged through adult social services at your local council, you can call the council if there are any problems with your care.

If you use council-arranged direct payments to fund a personal assistant and they can’t visit, call the local council to tell them straight away. They have a duty to ensure your needs are met. This could involve putting an interim arrangement in place until your personal assistant is able to resume their caring role.    

If it’s a friend or relative who usually provides your care, and you’re not able to cope without their support, contact adult social services at your local council to ask for an urgent care needs assessment. You can find their details at gov.uk/apply-needs-assessment-social-services.

Is it safe to attend my day centre or lunch club?

At this time, everyone has been told to stay at homeContact the organisation running the day centre or club or your local council to see if they have alternative plans. For example, there may be regular phone contact for those who are self-isolating. If not attending will have a significant impact on your wellbeing or safety, contact the council and ask for an urgent needs assessment.

Can I still visit my relative who is in a care home or sheltered housing?

The latest government instruction is for everyone to stay at home and avoid contact with others. This is particularly important for older people and those with certain medical conditions. Until this advice changes, swap visits for phone or video calls. Talk to the care home or housing scheme manager if you have concerns about how to stay in touch and ensure the welfare of your relative.

What can I do to make sure my health and care preferences are known in case I become unwell?

Talk to your loved ones and tell them about your wishes in case you become unwell, and a decision about your care and treatment needs to be made on your behalf.  Tell them about what’s important to you and how you would like to be cared for. It’s important to write this down and let someone you trust know where they can find a copy. Recording your wishes can help people involved in your care understand your preferences if a time comes when you’re unable to communicate this yourself.

If you want to give someone the legal power to make decisions on your behalf, you can think about setting up a lasting power of attorney if you haven’t already. See our factsheet Managing my affairs if I become ill.

I’m finding it hard to cope emotionally. How can I look after my mental health?

If you feel worried or anxious about the situation, you’re not alone and there are some steps you can take to help you manage. You might like to talk to friends and family to help you stay connected or call an organisation such as Samaritans  or The Silverline  for emotional support. You can also find online resources at Anxiety UK

Spending time doing the things you enjoy, staying active, eating well and sticking to a daily routine can all help too. Different things work for different people, so take time to work out what works best for you. 

If you feel your mental health has seriously been affected, talk to your GP to find out what help is available.

Why has my scheduled operation/appointment been cancelled by the NHS?

The NHS are making some changes to the way they are operating scheduled appointments over the next few months. A routine operation may be cancelled but for other treatment some people might be offered a telephone appointment instead of a face-to-face appointment. If you have an upcoming appointment, speak to your GP or healthcare team to find out if there are any changes to how you access treatment and support.

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