The Department of Health and Social care announced a new self-isolation rule for health and social care staff this week.
Double vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff in England, who have been told to self-isolate, will be permitted to attend work in exceptional circumstances and replaced by testing mitigations in exceptional circumstances under updated guidance.
This will include staff who have been contacted as a close contact of a case of COVID-19 by NHS Test and Trace, or advised to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app.
This measure is being introduced to alleviate pressure on NHS and social care services and will be contingent on staff members only working after having a negative PCR test and also taking daily negative lateral flow tests for a minimum of seven days, and up to 10 days or completion of the identified self-isolation period.
The Government has said that the decision to allow NHS and social care staff to attend work after being told to self-isolate should be made on a case-by-case basis, and only after a risk assessment by the organisation’s management.
This must be authorised by the organisation’s local Director of Infection Prevention and Control, the lead professional for health protection, or the Director of Public Health relevant to the organisation.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, said, 'As we learn to live with this virus, it’s important that we ensure frontline staff can keep providing the best possible care and support to people up and down the country. The Government has backed healthcare services at every turn through this global pandemic and these new rules will fortify our collective defences against this awful virus, by allowing fully vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff to continue to work when needed.'
Staff who are permitted to attend work will remain under a legal duty to self-isolate as a close contact when not at work, but will be considered to have a ‘reasonable excuse’ under the Self-Isolation regulations to leave self-isolation to attend work where their absence could result in harm. They will continue to receive self-isolation reminders.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Care Services (ADASS) welcomes this new measure as an initial attempt to alleviate some of the pressure our frontline workforce has experienced and still experiences to date. However, ADASS said that 'The Government needs to ensure that limitations and regulations for this new measure are stated clearly and with no room for doubt, defining exactly what exceptional circumstances and basic conditions must be met to allow some care workers to be permitted to attend work.'
ADASS also said that their concerns are magnified by the fact that there has been 'an immediate change in policy with no prior warning, guidance and information about the change and how this can be introduced safely'.
The policy is intended to be applied on a case by case basis, and with a full risk assessment, but ADASS have said the absence of information and guidance 'raises the risk of blanket applications.'
Visit the Government website, for more information about the new self-isolation rules.