Shielding stories - an insight into how vulnerable people coped in North Somerset

Older and more vulnerable people have told Healthwatch how they coped with coronavirus with many admitting their mental health had suffered and they often felt lonely.
shielding stories

63% said they felt isolated or lonely in lockdown while 54% felt said this affected their wellbeing and or physical health.

Others told us they felt confused by government advice especially as around a quarter of the people in North Somerset who we spoke to said they didn’t use digital technology and couldn’t always find up-to-date information easily.

One respondent said; "They [government?] said this week there’d be more information but there haven’t been updates. It was a huge mess when we got letters. They’re all generic. My partner got his roughly 6 weeks ago but it still says shield for 12 weeks. From today?"

More than 120 people called our support line in April and May this year to ask for help with getting medical supplies or food and we were able to direct more than 100 to the help they needed from mutual aid and other community groups.

Understanding needs of those who are shielding

We then contacted these callers, many over 70 who were shielding, to see if they were able to tell us more about their experiences to help us understand their health and wellbeing needs and how they had coped during lockdown.

Nearly half of the people said communication about changes to services during lockdown was poor or unsatisfactory. But once they had contacted their surgery for help, or to make an appointment, many people told us the service they had received was good or excellent.


We have made a series of recommendations about how people could have better access to advice in the future and how better communication especially offline would really help people feel less anxious or lonely. In addition, making digital start-up guides more easily available to get people online was suggested as well as boosting services that help people tackle feelings of isolation and depression and making sure these are better publicised.

Kayleigh Pullenger, from Portishead, says she felt anxious during lockdown as she had been waiting months to get assessed for care at home to help her look after a child with additional needs. She tried to get help from her local mental health recovery team which proved very difficult and were sometimes unresponsive to her phone calls. Kayleigh added: “I have been passed between social services and mental health teams which has been tricky as I have a child with additional needs. There definitely has been an issue for people, like me, who need support and haven’t been able to access it."

Colin Davies, from Portishead, has told Healthwatch how he had excellent care and treatment from a range of hospitals and The Bristol Oncology Centre after being diagnosed with cancer of the tongue at the start of lockdown. He has since had a course of radiotherapy sessions and has had video calls with doctors, nurses, dieticians and speech therapists as part of his ongoing treatment. Healthwatch stepped in to help him get prescriptions delivered as part of our Covid-19 response phone service to the public. He said: “I have been very happy with the care I have had and I have felt really looked after.”  


North Somerset stories of shielding and self-isolating. July 2020

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