Roll-out of Covid-19 treatments expanded

Roll-out of Covid-19 treatments expanded

Health Minister Robin Swann

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Friday 8 July 2022 10:05

Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed the expanded roll-out of new COVID-19 treatments for patients at the highest risk from the virus.

Since 16 December 2021, COVID-19 treatments have been available to the highest risk patients in the community. Recently the groups of those eligible for treatment has expanded.  Treatments include a neutralising Monoclonal Antibody treatment at a Trust Outpatient COVID-19 Treatment Service or an oral antiviral medicine to take at home.

The Minister said: “It’s very encouraging to hear that over 4,000 patients so far in Northern Ireland have benefited from these ground-breaking treatments.  

“The expanded roll-out of treatments to eligible patients in the community provides an additional layer of support for the most vulnerable in society.”

The recent publication of an independent advisory group report has now expanded the patient groups that could benefit from new COVID-19 treatments. A summary of those eligible is available on NI Direct Treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Minister continued: “The vaccination programme remains our first line of defence against COVID-19, however these treatments have an important role in lowering the risk of severe illness and death and reducing the numbers being admitted to hospital.  This will help ease the pressures on the health service during this challenging time.”

It is strongly recommended that everyone who is in a group that may be eligible for a COVID-19 treatment should obtain rapid lateral flow tests to keep at home in case they become symptomatic. Free rapid lateral flow tests are available at most community pharmacies and can be ordered online via gov.uk or by calling 119.

Take a lateral flow test if you get symptoms, even if your symptoms are mild. You should take the test as soon as possible after you get symptoms. For those in a group that may be eligible for a COVID-19 treatment, if your first lateral flow test is negative, but you still have symptoms, you should take another lateral flow test on each of the next two days (three tests in total over three days).

It is important that every positive lateral flow test result is reported in order for you to be assessed for a COVID-19 treatment. Test results can be reported online via gov.uk or by calling 119.

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison said: “I want to commend clinical teams in our HSC Trusts who have worked exceptionally hard to identify and deliver over 4,000 treatments to the highest risk patients in Northern Ireland.

“I would urge anyone in a highest risk group to familiarise themselves with the up to date information on testing and available treatments to ensure they can quickly access suitable treatments following a positive result.”

If you have reported a positive lateral flow test result, you will receive a message about your positive result. If there is information in the HSC central record systems showing that you may be eligible for a COVID-19 treatment, you will receive a text message, advising that your local HSC Trust will review information in your medical records. If your local HSC Trust identifies you as suitable for treatment, they will be in contact to discuss this further. This call may be from an unknown or withheld number.

Most people will be identified by this process, however if you feel you are in one of the highest risk groups eligible for treatment but do not receive a text message about treatment, or a follow up telephone call from your local trust within a couple of days, you can contact your GP to discuss this. GPs have received information on the COVID-19 treatment service and can contact the trust on your behalf.

More information for patients and the public about the rollout of COVID treatments (nMABs and antivirals) is available at NI Direct Treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19)

HSC treatments for COVID-19 are free of charge and you will never be asked for your bank account or card details, or asked to pay for treatment.

Notes to editors: 

1. The treatments available are for people aged 12 and over who have symptoms and have tested positive, using a lateral flow test for COVID-19 and are at highest risk of getting seriously ill.

This includes some people who have:

Down's syndrome, or another chromosomal disorder that affects your immune system
certain types of cancer or have received treatment for certain types of cancer
sickle cell disease
certain conditions affecting your blood
chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage 4 or 5
severe liver disease
had an organ transplant
certain autoimmune or inflammatory conditions 
HIV or AIDS and have a weakened immune system
a condition affecting your immune system
a rare condition affecting the brain or nerves (multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Huntington’s disease or myasthenia gravis)
A doctor or specialist will confirm if someone is eligible for treatment. More detailed information on eligible groups of people is available at NI Direct Treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19)

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