Read our latest advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19)


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Inflammatory disease and coronavirus: frequently asked questions

Information for our rheumatology patients

Frequently asked questions

Please see some answers to common questions we have received during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

  • What should I do if I develop symptoms of coronavirus?

    Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Use the NHS 111 coronavirus service to find out what to do. 

  • What advice do I need to follow if a family member has symptoms?

    If you live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus, please follow the advice on the NHS 111 website.

  • Should I stop taking my medication due to coronavirus?

    If you develop symptoms (e.g. dry cough, fever, sore muscles and shortness of breath) please follow the guidelines on the NHS 111 website and stop medication temporarily (with the exception of steroids and hydroxychloroquine) until you have recovered. This advice applies for any infection.

    There is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medication can make coronavirus (COVID-19) infection worse. But until we have more information, please take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you. If you are already taking ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) on the advice of a doctor, you may wish to stop taking it if you become infected with coronavirus.

  • How has my risk level been assessed?

    We have used a combination of clinical information to make the most appropriate assessment of your risk level during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A risk scoring system devised by the British Society for Rheumatology has been used to assess an individual's risk level and is specific to rheumatology patients. It has been adopted by rheumatology teams throughout the country and is the best available guide for patients with rheumatic disease. It therefore may not account for any other autoimmune conditions that you may have. Your rheumatology team may also have asked you to recently complete a medication checker self-assessment tool to provide up to date information about your health status.

  • I think I should be shielding but have not been contacted

    Sometimes, information regarding your other medications and health conditions may not be included in your hospital or GP records and this can be a cause for the discrepancy. If you have not been contacted by the rheumatology team but feel you meet the criteria for shielding at home in the extremely vulnerable category, please email the rheumatology team on gst-tr.rheumatologynurse@nhs.net.

  • I am shielding and my family are returning to work or school

    If a member of your household is planning to return to work, please direct them to the government advice for returning to work. If a child in your household is returning to school or adult working in an education setting please follow the government advice on returning to school and education settings.

    If a child, young person or staff member lives in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable guidance, it is advised they only attend an education or childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, they are able to understand and follow those instructions. This may not be possible for very young children and older children without the capacity to adhere to the instructions on social distancing. If stringent social distancing cannot be adhered to, those individuals are not expected to attend. They should be supported to learn or work at home.

  • I am planning to return to work after lockdown

    If you are planning to return to work, please follow the government advice for returning to work. Patients who are taking immunosuppressant medication may be required to make changes to usual working patterns to remain safe in the workplace. If you have specific workplace concerns, please contact your employer to discuss appropriate risk assessment measures for planning a safe return to your workplace. The rheumatology service is unable to provide you with an individual risk assessment for your workplace.

    If you have any questions regarding your medication prescribed to you by the rheumatology service relating to a safe return to work, please email gst-tr.rheumatologynurse@nhs.net or call 020 7188 5900, option1.

  • How can I best look after myself whilst self-isolating?

    This is likely to be a challenging time for everyone self-isolating. There is much to worry about, from getting basic essentials like medication and shopping sorted, to worry about your own health and that of your loved ones.

    Added into this, your normal networks of social support may not be available, such as seeing friends, going to exercise classes or even just chatting to a neighbour. Consider the following ideas.

    • as much as possible, keep some routine with regular get-up times and meal times.
    • If you are working from home, prepare as you would for going to work (eg. washing, dressing, keeping to specific work times). If possible, have an area of your home where you work separate to the rest.
    • If you don't work, try to schedule specific activities throughout the day (eg. housework, administrative tasks, exercise). Get some balance between tasks that give you a sense of achievement (eg. sorting a cupboard, paying bills etc) and things you enjoy (eg. reading, watching TV, relaxing).
    • Try to keep physically active.
    • Stay connected, schedule phone or video time with loved ones, friends on a regular basis. Many of us will feel isolated at this time, but everyone is in the same boat. Use social media if it’s helpful to connect with others, but be mindful that some social media could contribute to your worry and stress.
    • Limit exposure to news/media around coronavirus (COVID-19) to a reliable source (eg. BBC news), at a reasonable frequency (eg. once a day).

    For practical advice around self-isolating and general advice around psychological wellbeing see:

  • I'm feeling stressed/down, what can I do?

    Firstly, feeling anxious and worried is a normal reaction to your current situation, so don't give yourself a hard time. These are stressful times and our minds are designed to focus on threatening events, hence the worry. Consider the following:

    • Slow down and really engage in whatever you are doing whether its cooking a meal, washing dishes, having a cup of tea. You have time so go slowly, and engage your sense, notice sounds, smells and touch. See this guide to mindfulness in physical health (PDF 136Kb).
    • Be kind to yourself: be mindful of how you are speaking to yourself. Maybe you are telling yourself off for feeling stressed, or not achieving enough. Allow yourself to feel the difficult feelings that are there, criticising yourself is unlikely to help you to deal with the situation. Consider how you would treat and speak to a loved one who was in your situation, self-isolating, feeling worried? It's likely you would be much kinder than you are to yourself. Can you apply this to how you treat yourself?
    • If you are struggling with motivation set yourself small tasks, for example a five-minute stretch or a small amount of housework. Remember that getting started is most difficult – once we get going, motivation will likely kick in later.
    • Talk to someone if you can. Just sharing how are feeling can help to not feel so alone. It's likely others are feeling the same as you are.
    • Access some free resources from the King's Health Partners 'imparts' programme about managing stress and worry around coronavirus (COVID-19). 

    Please note that if you are in crisis please contact your GP, local A&E, or the Samaritans (116 123 and jo@samaritans.org).

    • If you think you need professional help with your mental health follow the advice on the NHS website.
  • What should I do if my condition is flaring?

    You should continue to contact the rheumatology service if your condition is flaring or you have an immediate need for advice or treatment. Please email the nursing team on gst-tr.rheumatologynurse@nhs.net in the first instance. They will then advise you to book a telephone appointment or arrange for you to be seen if necessary.

  • What if I am due a blood test?

    If you have had a blood test in the last three months you will receive your next prescription as usual.

    If you have been identified as a high risk or extremely vulnerable patient, please email the specialist nursing team to discuss arrangements for your next blood test at gst-tr.rheumatologynurse@nhs.net.

    If you have not had a blood test in the last three months and are not a high risk or extremely vulnerable patient (following Government advice on strict social distancing) please arrange to have your blood test at your local surgery and email the results to gst-tr.rheumatologynurse@nhs.net.

    The essential blood tests you need to have are full blood count, liver profile and creatinine.

    If you are unable to have a blood test locally, please email the patient access team on gst-tr.rheumandlupus@nhs.net to arrange this appointment at the hospital. We are currently only able to offer blood tests on Wednesday only due to minimal staffing levels.

    The delivery company Healthcare at Home are currently continuing to deliver medication. 

  • What if I am due to have an infusion

    Due to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation we will be postponing all non-urgent infusions to a later date. If your infusion has been postponed we will inform you by text message. If you feel that your disease is active or flaring please contact the specialist nurse team on gst-tr.rheumatologynurse@nhs.net.

  • What if I am due to have an infusion or injection for my osteoporosis?

    Due to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation we will be postponing all non-urgent infusions to a later date. If your infusion has been postponed we will inform you by text message. If you feel that your disease is active or flaring please contact the specialist nurse team on gst-tr.rheumatologynurse@nhs.net.

    For osteoporosis medications, if you are on the yearly infusion for zoledronate or ibandronate your treatment will be deferred for six months from the due date.

    If you are on the six-monthly injection denosumab, this will be deferred for three months from the due date.

    If there is any change to this timeline, we will contact you.

  • What if I need a prescription I usually get from the rheumatology team?

    For all enquiries regarding a prescription you usually receive through the rheumatology service please email the specialist nursing team on gst-tr.rheumatologynurse@nhs.net.

    Alternatively please call 0207 188 5896 and leave a message on the telephone helpline.  Please note this is an answer machine service for patients under our care only.

    You will be asked to leave your name, NHS number and a brief reason for your call.

    Your call with be assisted by the most appropriate member of the team. 

  • What if I have been referred to the rheumatology service but I have not heard anything?

    We have received your referral but are currently not scheduling any new patients unless clinically urgent. You will remain on our waiting list and we will be in touch with you in due course.

  • What if I have an appointment soon and I have not heard from you?

    All appointments are being reviewed on immediate need.

    We are attempting to contact all patients in advance of your appointment.

    If you haven’t heard from us and your appointment is less than three days away, please contact us via email on gst-tr.rheumandlupus@nhs.net. Please do not attend the hospital.

  • I am an existing patient. What should I do if my appointment is changed?

    Due to increased demand on the hospital due to the coronavirus pandemic we are having to make significant changes to our services. Please do not attend the hospital for your rheumatology appointment.

    All rheumatology appointments are being assessed for immediate need.  In some cases we are changing appointments to a telephone consultation or video appointment.

    Some appointments may be cancelled without a future date being arranged at this stage. 

    If we cancel your appointment you will remain on our waiting list and we will contact you when our service resumes.

    Some patients may be discharged back to their GP and we will write to you if this is the case.

    For all appointment queries, preferably email gst-tr.rheumandlupus@nhs.net. If you do not have access to email, please call 0207 188 5900. 

  • What should I do if I want to change an appointment?

    If you wish to amend or cancel an appointment (including blood tests) in the rheumatology department, please contact the patient access team on email gst-tr.rheumandlupus@nhs.net or telephone 0207 188 5900.

    Our phone lines are very busy and there may be a wait for your call to be answered.