From Monday 16th August, most double vaccinated health and social care staff who are close contacts of cases will be able to routinely return to work, provided they have had a negative PCR test.
Daily LFD tests will need to be taken for 10 days as a precaution.
Staff working with clinically extremely vulnerable patients or service users will need a risk assessment to be carried out by a designated person in the workplace before they return to work.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said this change of restrictions is possible as a result of the success of the UK’s vaccine programme, with over three quarters of UK adults now double jabbed. The latest data from Public Health England and Cambridge University shows that around 60,000 deaths, 22 million infections and 66,900 hospitalisations have been prevented by the vaccines.
Kathy Roberts, Chair of the Care Provider Alliance (CPA), said, ‘Removing the need for self-isolation for most double-vaccinated care workers may bring more staffing flexibility, but the risks need very careful assessment. Many people using care services are clinically extremely vulnerable and care providers will need to be reassured that they are not putting people at risk of infection. Further guidance on the risk-assessment process would be welcomed.’
With regards to where this support should come from, CPA said care and support providers will be looking for ‘support and prompt advice’ from their local Directors of Public Heath to ensure that providers are able to strike a balance between the risks associated with staff absences and the impact on the ability to deliver care and the risk of COVID-19 transmission to the often clinically extremely vulnerable people care providers’ support.
Kathy Roberts added, ‘Carrying out risk assessments does, of course, increase the workload for our already pressurised care managers. And the changes to self-isolation rules alone is unlikely to fill the growing gap in staffing levels. The Care Provider Alliance continues to call for a long-term, sustainable workforce plan for the care sector, which recognises, supports and rewards the 1.5 million essential care workers.’
How might these changes impact the home care sector?
Agincare Chief Executive Raina Summerson said, ‘We are happy to see the roadmap continue. With the self-isolation move from 16th August, alongside with management of COVID-19 through seemingly successful increasing vaccination, we welcome being able to risk assess at a time where staffing shortages in the sector are so critical.
‘As ever there remains risk areas that fall on us as employers to carefully consider, and more sensitive judgement calls will need to be made in these circumstances. Dealing with LA and CCG funded people, many of those we work with have high levels of need, therefore it remains to be seen whether this move will really see many people being able to return to work as suggested, with further issues in the future, such as when infection control funding ends.’
Visit the Government website for more information regarding the changes to restrictions.
In other news, a specialist care group in Milton Keynes is offering a brand new car as a raffle prize to fully vaccinated staff as it says its more cost effective than recruiting new team members.