The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a rapidly developing situation in the UK. We are aware that this is a stressful time for you all.
We are trying to deal with our usual transplant concerns and work, while handling an increased number of calls. Please restrict phone calls to the helpline to urgent issues only.
We are converting all outpatient appointments to telephone consultation, unless it’s necessary for you to attend the hospital. The Transplant Team will advise you in advance about your planned outpatient appointment.
Due to the increased number of calls from patients; we will attempt to answer some of the common questions below.
What can I do to keep myself safe?
Patients who have undergone transplant should follow national guidance to help prevent spread of the virus.
Am I at increased risk?
There is no specific data on the relative risk of COVID-19 in patients who have had a cardiothoracic transplant. Patients with chronic heart or lung disease are known to be at increased risk of developing severe illness. It seems reasonable to consider that all patients who have had a transplant will be at increased risk of severe infection especially if they have established graft damage that has occurred since transplant. Patients requiring oxygen or NIV will most likely be at highest risk.
There is no evidence that wearing a face mask will protect patients from acquiring COVID-19, but if you have a cough, wearing the mask may protect others, so this is a reasonable approach if you have symptoms.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
It is extremely important that you do not go directly to your transplant centre unless specifically advised to do so by a member of the transplant team.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are the same as many other problems in patients who have had a transplant, which makes it difficult to decide the best course of action. You should monitor your symptoms closely:
- Increased vigilance with spirometry is highly desirable if you have had a lung transplant
- Monitor for respiratory or cardiac symptoms if you have had a heart transplant
If you develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing you should call the transplant team on 07920 530026.
If you are well (i.e. with no drop-in spirometry) it is likely we will ask you to call NHS 111 for advice and access to local COVID-19 testing. If you are unwell you may be asked to attend your local A&E department. Do not turn up to the transplant clinics or wards.
Please continue to follow advice regarding social distancing and hand washing stringently.
What should I do if I think I have been in contact with someone with COVID-19?
If you have been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, you should self-isolate, and let your clinical team know so that they can monitor you closely. If you start having symptoms, please call 111 and let your transplant team know. Routine testing is not yet available at any clinic.
Should I self-isolate or work from home?
Social distancing is highly advisable. You should follow Public Health England advice on self-isolation. As a transplant team we encourage you to work from home, if possible.
What should I do if I have a holiday planned?
The current situation with regards COVID-19 is evolving rapidly.
Deciding to travel in this current climate is difficult and highly personal. Given the potential for exposure to large numbers of people it would seem sensible to avoid all but essential travel. If travel is essential, please take out appropriate travel insurance and see first point: "What can I do to keep myself safe?"
Will I still be able to access my medicines/do I need to stockpile?
We are working closely with our pharmacy to make sure we continue to have enough supplies of medicines for our patients. If you are currently receiving medicines such as anti-rejection medication from us, this will continue as normal.
The main change people may experience is that drivers may not ask for signature and may stay a safe distance away from patients by setting the parcel down for the recipient to pick up the parcal. No medicines will be left unattended. Do not stop taking any of your usual medications unless instructed to do so by the Transplant team.
How can I help?
As usual, make sure you have enough ”buffer stock” by keeping at least two to four weeks’ worth of your medicines at all times (as advised by your clinical team), and requesting repeat prescriptions well in advance of this supply running out. That will give your pharmacy enough time to deal with any shortages should they arise.
This is standard practice for our patients, and not new advice.
If you are experiencing any difficulty getting hold of a supply of your medicines, or if you have any concerns about their availability, please let the pharmacy team know on 0121 371 5480.