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Protecting who you care for

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Last updated: 18 May 2020 15:34

What support is available for me and the person I care for?

The NHS has written to everyone considered to be at risk of severe illness if they catch the coronavirus. If a person you care for has received this letter, the advice remains unchanged. They must stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact until the end of June, except from you as their carer and healthcare workers continuing to provide essential care. 

However, if you start to display any of the symptoms of coronavirus, you must suspend your face-to-face visits and self-isolate. Please note that having a loss of smell or taste is now also considered an official symptom of coronavirus (18 May). 

If you are self-isolating and need support or you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, the NHS Responder Scheme has been set up to help. Call 0808 196 3646 to make a referral or seek support for yourself. If you're concerned about someone's vulnerability (or your own risk) and haven't received an NHS letter, contact your GP or hospital clinician for advice.

“I’m part of a local volunteer team. I fetch others' prescriptions, shop for two other vulnerable households and wash the paid carers’ cars while they visit to say thank you.”

In Wales, you should have received a letter if at higher risk. If you are in need of extra assistance, you will be advised to contact your local authority for support (contact details will be included in your letter). Any health or social care services you're already receiving, through your local authority, will continue and your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure you are protected.

In Scotland, if you've received an NHS letter and are in need of extra assistance, you will be provided with details of your local support service. You will also be given details of a text message 
service if you need to arrange a weekly delivery of essentials including medication. Read more on For those at high risk without family or community support, a national helpline has also been set up: 0800 111 4000. Read more

In Northern Ireland, GPs should have contacted those most at risk to provide more detailed advice. A helpline is also available. Call 0808 802 0020 or you can access help and guidance by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or texting: ACTION to 81025.

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How do I protect someone I care for?

Even if you are not showing symptoms, the government says it is vital everyone stays at home (except for key workers), avoiding non-essential contact with others and all unnecessary travel, to save lives. See the government’s full guidance for people at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

In the first instance, it is advisable to protect yourself and others by following the hygiene and infection control guidelines illustrated on this BBC's video and included on the NHS website.

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If you live with those you care for

If you think you've been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, take extra precautions and check if you have symptoms using the coronavirus helpline symptom checker. For more details on protecting those at highest risk, this NHS page has some useful practical suggestions on how you can look after yourselves. If you haven't already, start putting in place contingency measures to support the person you care for. For tips and suggestions, read our advice on creating a contingency plan. Our Coronavirus - further support section also provides some answers to current common concerns.

If you do not live with those you care for

We suggest you keep in regular contact over the phone, through email or through video calls.

Families may want to think about spending time together in a different way – for example, by setting up a group chat or playing online games together. If online communication isn't possible, never underestimate the value of a regular phone call to offer social contact and support. 

If necessary, make plans for alternative face-to-face care for the person you care for, for example by calling on trusted neighbours, friends or family members. Read our advice on creating a contingency plan

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What’s the advice if I have care workers and other home help?

The NHS guidance is now very clear. Visits from people who provide essential support such as healthcare, personal support with daily needs or social care should continue. Carers, like yourself, and paid care workers must stay away if you/they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus. 

During this time, you can only provide support to vulnerable people if all of the following apply:

  • you are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and nobody in your household does
  • you are under 70
  • you are not pregnant
  • you do not have any long-term health conditions that make you vulnerable to coronavirus.

Let friends and family know that they should only visit if providing essential care such as washing, administering medication, dressing and preparing meals.

All people coming into the home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival and often during their visit. Talk to the person you care for about the hygiene and infection control measures they should expect someone coming into their home to follow. They should not be afraid to insist that these are followed.

If you have a care worker employed by an agency, ask them what protective measures they are taking and how they plan to respond if any of their staff are affected. If the care worker shows symptoms of coronavirus, inform the agency. They will need to carry out a risk assessment and take steps to protect staff, their families and all clients from the virus. The agency should work with you to ensure that the person you care for is also safe.

For advice on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in supported living settings and in home care settings, you may find it useful to refer to this information (covering England). Carers in Scotland can request PPE to support their caring role – read more

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