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From 5 January, England and mainland Scotland entered another lockdown, joining Wales and Northern Ireland, where similar restrictions came into force at the end of December. For many people in the UK this is the third lockdown in a year. Although it is an unwelcome déjà vu, this time we hope there’s an end in sight as Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out across the UK.
Here’s a reminder of what to expect and the support you might need, if you and your family are affected by MS.
If you're not sure about what you can and can't do, you can check the lockdown rules on the government website.
If you are considered clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), a letter will have been sent to you advising you to shield yourself from infection. This means that you are advised to avoid leaving your home or mixing with people who are not in your support bubble. Where possible, other people should shop for food and collect medicines for you. Your shielding letter should enable you to access support including home deliveries, sick pay and other help.
The list of CEV people has been updated since the last time shielding was advised. Your consultant may have added or removed you from the list, depending on the current advice around the risk of severe illness with Covid-19.
Not everyone with MS falls into the CEV category, as it is reserved for the most vulnerable people who are most at risk of severe illness or death from covid-19. However, if you think you should be on the list but are not, you can query this with your doctor.
If you are not on the CEV list, you can still take strong measures to protect yourself from infection by following the lockdown guidance carefully. If you are not able to work from home, you may find that you and your family, colleagues or employer disagree on the right approach to your safety. If you have concerns about your rights and safety in employment, you can get in touch with the MS Trust Enquiry Service, or speak to ACAS or Citizens Advice.
Access to MS services
MS services across the country may be under intense pressure, as MS specialist staff are redeployed to critical care, are poorly themselves or required to self-isolate because of infection in their household. This may make it harder to get in touch with your MS team or prevent them being able to return your calls promptly. You may already have found that routine appointments have been postponed.
You may find that appointments for infusions or blood monitoring may not be offered as often as normal. However, the Association of British Neurologists has set out guidelines to ensure that your treatment plans are safe.
If you have appointments scheduled, then you should attend, unless you or a household member have Covid-19 symptoms or have tested positive for Covid-19.
If you cannot attend an appointment, you should let your medical team know. Missing an infusion or monitoring appointment could mean that your MS could worsen or a harmful side-effect of your medication could be missed.
We saw that after last lockdown, once the pressure on the NHS was released, MS specialist staff were soon able to return to their normal roles and resume MS services.
Problems with breathing or swallowing, chest pain, bladder infections or bowel obstructions can be very dangerous. You should always seek medical help in an emergency or if you are unable to cope with your symptoms.
For life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance.
If you are not sure if you need to be seen in an emergency, use NHS 111, either online or using the telephone. NHS111 will direct you to the right service and ensure that you can be seen quickly and safely if a hospital visit is required.
If you have new or worsening MS symptoms, you should let your MS team know.
If you have ongoing MS symptoms that your MS team already know about, but you are seeking better ways to cope with them, you can look at our treatment finding tool. There may be tips or self-management techniques you can use to support yourself.
If you have a general question about MS, you can contact the MS Trust Enquiry Service.
Health professionals have told us that they are concerned that people with MS might currently have reduced access to physiotherapy or rehabilitation services. As a result, more people with MS might be experiencing mobility problems or reduced fitness. These are their recommendations for looking after yourself as well as you can.
Stay active and exercise regularly in a way that suits you. We have ideas for exercise for all abilities, including accessible Pilates and aerobics workouts that can be done at home in our exercise pages.
Look at these tips to maintain your lung health.
Eat nutritious food and drink plenty of water. We have more information in our diet pages.
If you feel you need more support with mental health and resilience, explore our wellbeing pages. This might be a good time to learn mindfulness or relaxation techniques.
By looking after your health, you are giving yourself the best chance of recovering from Covid-19 if you were to catch it, and minimising the impact of lockdown on your MS.
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