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Practical advice for self-isolation

We’ve put together practical suggestions to help ease our community's concerns about self-isolating through coronavirus (COVID-19)

This article was originally published on 24 March 2020 and updated 24 September 2020 to reflect the current situation and resources available.

When you are required to self-isolate

You must self-isolate if:

  • You have any symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • You have tested positive for coronavirus
  • You live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus
  • Someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive for coronavirus
  • You have been told to self-isolate by NHS Track and Trace
  • You arrive in the UK from a country with high coronavirus risk

For more information, check the guidance on the NHS website.

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Financial support if you are self-isolating

The government have announced a new package to support and enforce self-isolation. This means that from 28th September 2020 people will be required by law to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Trace and Trace and instructed to do so.

The package of support includes a £500 ‘Test and Trace Support’ payment, for those on a low-income who are unable to work from home as they are required to self-isolate. This is in order to help people self-isolate without worrying about money and loss of income. Local authorities will distribute these payments, and hope to be ready to do this from 12th October 2020. Those who are eligible for the payment and are required to self-isolate from 28th September can have the payment backdated.

Worried about money?

We understand that many people will still have concerns about money or loss of income during this time. We have information about benefits, employment and coronavirus, or alternatively, book an appointment with our Benefits Clinic.

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Organisations Offering Practical Support

In England, NHS Volunteer Responders are able to help with people who are self-isolating by collecting medications, as well as other practical tasks such as grocery shopping and helping people stay connected through regular friendly phone calls. To arrange support for yourself or someone you know call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week).

You may be aware of Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK, which is an organisation recently set up and run by a group of volunteers, to support local communities in organising mutual aid throughout the Coronavirus outbreak. Their website holds a list of Facebook support groups, localised to various areas within the UK, offering a range of support and services, including running errands and making phone calls. It’s really important to highlight that as these groups have been set up by individuals, so please prioritise your safety both online and offline, if you decide to join a group. Read more about how to stay safe on Facebook.

Don't forget...

Local charities and communities are continually making plans to increase volunteer support. Keep in regular contact with them to find out more about their plans and how they could support you.

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You're not alone...

Don’t forget that our Online Support Communities are always there as a safe online space where you can be part of a community, connect with others and share any worries or concerns you may have. Our community have recently been sharing their tips and advice for staying positive during self-isolation.

You can always get in touch with our Support and Information Line by ringing 0808 800 0004, emailing us at or starting a live chat. The Support and Information Line is open Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm.

If at any time you’re concerned about how you’re feeling and/or you feel your symptoms may be getting worse, call your specialist medical team, NHS 111, or 999 if it’s an emergency.

What if I don’t have enough food?

When you’re self-isolating you shouldn’t leave your home to go food shopping. It’s advised that you ask friends or family to help with grocery shopping or that you use online grocery deliveries while you self-isolate. Most of the big UK supermarkets offer this option but there may be high demand, so try to order as early as possible.

If you order food online or ask a friend/family member to shop for you, make sure you either leave a delivery message for the driver or tell your friend/family member that items should be left outside your house, in the porch or somewhere safe that’s suitable for your home.

You could also consider ordering a takeaway service online or by phone. Again, with these takeaway services be sure to leave a message for the delivery person to leave these outside your house to avoid any unnecessary contact.

It’s expected that advice will change as the situation develops so it’s essential to regularly review the up-to-date information and advice.

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What about getting my medication?

When you’re self-isolating you shouldn’t leave your home to pick up medication. You could ask friends or family members to pick up any medications you may need, prescribed or not. If you have a repeat prescription you can order this online, or call your GP surgery or pharmacy if you aren’t sure how to do this online. 

Please be aware that if someone is picking up a prescribed medication on your behalf, they may need to show ID and/or pay, depending on if you’re exempt or not. The NHS has useful information about picking up medication on behalf of someone else here.

You could also try looking online for organisations that offer free delivery of NHS prescriptions. Many pharmacies now offer this delivery service free of charge.

Again, remember that whoever is delivering your prescription should leave it somewhere outside your home to avoid any contact.

If buying medication online you must only buy from a registered pharmacy.

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What about my appointments?

If you are self-isolating you need to speak to the medical professional, team or organisation before attending your appointment. You should let them know that you are in self-isolation and the reason for this.

Often appointments will be delayed until after your period of self-isolation has ended. Depending on the type of appointment, it might be that you can have these by telephone or video call.

If the medical professional, team or organisation advises that your appointment cannot wait, alternative arrangements may be made to enable the appointment to go ahead as safely as possible.

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What about caring responsibilities?

If you or a loved one need a visit from a healthcare professional or carer during the time you’re in self-isolation, make sure you inform them of the situation so they can then follow any guidance provided by their employer. You can do this by letting your Local Authority or the care provider know.

If you’re self-isolating but you provide care for someone you don’t live with, you should make your Local Authority aware that this care or support is still necessary.

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*Please note. We’ve listed services in this blog that we think could provide support to our community. As we haven’t tested every one, we can’t necessarily recommend them.

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About the author

I’m a member of the Children and Families Team at The Brain Tumour Charity and previously practised as a Speech and Language Therapist, working with children of all ages. I’m dedicated to supporting children, young people and families affected by a brain tumour by being there every step of the way to provide help, understanding and support, when it’s needed most.

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