High risk patients updated guidance - Covid-19

6 April 2020

The NHS is facing unprecedented pressure on its services and capability. With the peak anticipated to be a few weeks away, the full impact on NHS capacity is still to come.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, we wanted to keep you informed with updated announcements and to make you aware of the work DKMS UK is doing to support our NHS.

Updated guidance for people at high risk

You may have been one of the recent cancer patients who received a letter identifying you as someone with a high risk. During these unprecedented times, DKMS has been working hard to ensure that we maximise the safety of blood cancer patients.

We were pleased to consult directly with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on their “rapid guideline”, issued at short notice, on COVID-19 and blood stem cell transplantation, which has been developed for health and care services, including stem cell donor registries (such as DKMS UK). We can now report that some of consultation feedback has been incorporated into NICE guidance published for the first time on 1 April 2020.

If you’ve received a transplant

The guidance states that patients are considered very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) if you: 

  • had an autologous stem cell transplant in the last year
  • had an allogeneic transplant within the last 2 years, are having continuous immunosuppressive therapy, have chronic graft versus host disease (GvHD) or there is evidence of ongoing immunodeficiency (or for other extremely vulnerable groups based on clinical assessment).

DKMS recommends that you keep in contact with your consultant/healthcare team regarding your health. Additionally, we strongly urge patients to follow the UK government guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 until the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have passed.

Transplant donors

DKMS donors that have been identified as the ideal match to donate their stem cells undergo thorough screening to ensure their health will allow for a successful donation. The health of our donors and how it affects recipient patients are our highest priorities.

Both DKMS staff and the staff at our specialised collection centres are especially vigilant while we manage the donor journey during this pandemic. We are pleased to have provided input to NICE on how COVID-19 may impact donor coordination and remain committed to ensuring stem cell donations can safely proceed amid a rapidly changing situation.

Additional support

If you are in England and require additional support you can contact http://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or call the government’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0288327. Full government guidance for England, Scotland and Wales is available.

How you can help

Blood cancer patients around the world are still in urgent need of blood stem cell transplants and many are still not able to find a matching donor. This is why DKMS continues to encourage everyone who can to register as a blood stem cell donor.

We are grateful for every registration and you can still easily register online by ordering your registration kit to be sent to your home address.