blog

Mask removal exposes the need for greater support for myeloma patients

6th July 2021 // Laura Kerby

When I first arrived at Myeloma UK it became very clear to me very early on that COVID-19 would challenge the myeloma community across multiple fronts, some we could control and others that we could not.

Within our immediate control was the simple precaution to wear a face mask and I wanted to offer all myeloma patients branded masks for free to ensure myeloma households could be identified as wearing face coverings became mandatory. This seemed the least we could do to help during shielding and beyond.

Yesterday’s government announcement of the intended removal of measures governing social distancing and mask wearing failed to outline the proper consideration of the impact on vulnerable communities like myeloma patients and their families. Reliance on an individual’s personal responsibility to wear a mask does not go far enough to protect those who have no choice but to take additional, often restrictive, measures to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

The data enabling these proposed changes is due to be reviewed at the end of next week, and today I have written to the Secretary of State for Health to call for the following points to be addressed in that review as a matter of urgency:

Reverse the proposal to remove the requirement to wear masks and face coverings and make wearing face masks in crowded places mandatory until the research shows that vaccination is providing a high response rate for all.

Removing face mask use increases the risk to immunosuppressed people as infection rates continue to rise and reduces the choices they feel safe to make. Face masks are a simple way to offer wider protection to the whole of society whilst still enabling measures that open up other areas of society and the economy.

Put in place proper financial and care support for those who are made more vulnerable by re-opening society

For some in the myeloma community, the re-opening of schools and places of employment will force them to make difficult decisions about their own safety. These individuals and families cannot be left to cope with the consequences of this on their own. If government considers the only proper route to an exit of social distancing measures is to create a pathway that grants the majority additional freedoms whilst making other groups more vulnerable, then those groups must be able to draw down targeted and sustained support.

Demonstrate a plan for keeping hospitals and treatment centres free from COVID-19

Too many myeloma patients saw their treatment disrupted in previous stages of the pandemic. Now, as treatments like HDT-SCT begin to resume, it cannot be acceptable to allow these essential treatments to be put at risk by potential surges in infection rates. The government must demonstrate how it will protect essential cancer treatment services and vulnerable patients.

 

In November last year, I made clear that organisations like Myeloma UK cannot be part of the solution if we are not part of the plan. Yesterday was an opportunity to offer vital reassurance to vulnerable people that they mattered and they would be protected as society opened up. I urge governments across the UK to not miss that opportunity again.

 

If you have any concerns or questions about the lifting of restrictions, please reach out to our Myeloma Information Specialists on 0800 980 3332 or askthenurse@myeloma.org.uk.