On 25 August, Dr Mike Stephens, Consultant Transplant Surgeon at the University Hospital of Wales, delivered his fifth Q&A session for kidney patients during the Coronavirus pandemic.  The focus of this session was  to give the up-dated guidance and practical advice regarding shielding measures, primarily for transplant patients but the principles apply to anyone in the high risk groups.

15 patients submitted questions in advance of the session for Dr Mike to answer and the key issues were:

• What is the latest guidance for transplant patients, and those live on the waiting list?
• Practically, what are the measures patients should take to keep safe?
• Is it safe for me to return to work?
• Is it safe for my children to return to school?
• What is the latest up-date on the development of a vaccine?

Watch the session here or download the report of the Q&A session on ‘un-shielding’ 

Dr Mike presented these key messages for kidney patients who are ‘un-shielding’:
• Regular hand washing and careful social distancing remain the most important factors to prevent the spread of infection, until there is a vaccine or an effective treatment.
• You are advised to wear a mask when you are out of the house and in any area where a social distance cannot be maintained.  Request your mask from Kidney Wales here! 
• Use the risk assessment tool produced by the British Renal Society to assess your own risk of undertaking certain activities.  Choose lower risk options where you can and consider alternatives.
• Take measures to minimise the risk of infection posed by children returning to school by following the guidelines from the Renal Association and British Renal Society.
• Encourage children to follow the advice to remain in their bubble for their year group; when children return from school, take uniform off straight away, get changed and wash hands; journey to school – minimise contact with other adults.
• Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that work places are COVID safe.  If your employer can’t demonstrate that, you are advised not to return to work.  Work from home if you can.
• It is safe to have close contact with your own and immediate family but be sensible about how far you widen your social group.
• Going away in the UK, or anywhere you have control over the environment e.g. self catering, is reasonably safe.  Staying in a hotel is a slightly higher risk.  Going overseas, presents unpredictable problems – we don’t know as much about infection rates.  If you still want to travel abroad, pick somewhere where the infection rates are low or falling, which have a decent health care system and check you have the correct insurance cover in place.
• There are lots of vaccines in development or under trial.  The majority are not live vaccines.  Very likely any vaccine will be safe for transplant patients and it is expected that transplant patients will be in a high priority group for the vaccine.

Links to further information:

• Renal Association and British Renal Society risk assessment tool
• Coronavirus guidance for people with kidney disease, produced by Kidney Care UK.
• Kidney Wales’ ‘top tips’ for un-shielding
• Welsh Government Guidance for people extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 who have been shielding