Morna Simpkins says those who are shielding during the coronavirus pandemic still face a lot of uncertainty
Scotland is beginning to slowly move out of lockdown and people are starting to introduce small aspects of ‘normality’ back into their lives.
Better access to the outdoors and the chance to speak in-person to friends and family who we haven’t seen for weeks is incredibly important and will make the world of difference to many people.
But ‘normal’ is a long way off and for those living with long-term health conditions that it may feel even more so.
In the MS community, for example, everybody living with the condition is categorised as ‘clinically vulnerable’ and a significant proportion have been shielding in the months since lockdown started – advised against leaving their homes even to visit the shop.
While others start to see these rules relaxed it’s not yet clear how those ‘shielding’ will be affected when the initial 12-week period comes to a close in June.
And for those who aren’t shielding the return of NHS services will be of great concern as treatment schedules and appointments have been disrupted.
There remain many questions to be answered about how we move forward in the third sector but we can all be proud of how we have responded to a situation that few could have foreseen.
Since March our colleagues and partners have worked tirelessly to find ways to deliver services that people rely on and benefit from. Creating new sessions, courses and activities to ensure that communities that are effected more than others can stay connected.
Zoom has gone from a tool that many shied away from to a vital resource enabling people to see others’ faces and we have worked closely with other organisations to ensure that what we offer is varied and useful to our different communities.
It is likely, however, that these new ways of working will continue for some time and that the challenges we face aren’t going to be resolved quickly.
Many may find themselves working with statutory services in ways we haven’t in the past – perhaps an opportunity to forge closer links to provide more cohesive services for those who need to access them.
Over the past two years MS Society Scotland has worked closely with health boards, local groups and volunteers to deliver too such projects in Tayside and Lanarkshire.
By working alongside the health board and with healthcare professionals we have supported people newly diagnosed with MS in a way that may not have otherwise been possible.
Providing elements of virtual and face-to-face support we aimed to ensure access to what was needed to live well with MS from the very start. Virtual and home based working can present challenges but also offer opportunities to be flexible and provide more with less.
The ending of lockdown may feel like a beginning of sorts for many people affected by long-term health conditions and those working in the health service.
The way people access services may change and adapt as they begin to return.
Even some established treatment plans and support may be affected in delivery or regularity. For that reason we will need to continue to show the innovation and collaboration we have done for the past weeks that has led to us continuing to offer the level of support we have.
New challenges will be thrown up, whether financial or logistical, and we will need to work smartly, efficiently and cohesively to ensure that we can move forward positively.
Working together we have shown what can be done in a short time. Soon we will have to focus on the longer term to carry that forward.
Morna Simpkins is Scotland director for the MS Society