General practice staff who have been doubled vaccinated will be expected to provide daily negative lateral flow tests for at least 10 days after being ‘pinged’ instead of self-isolating, NHS England has said.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) set out this week that fully vaccinated adults and children identified as a close Covid-19 contact will be free to ‘return to work, attend school, and meet friends and family’ from Monday (16 August).
However, NHSE clarified that any NHS staff member returning to work must be at least 14 days ‘post double vaccination at the point of exposure’ and must also provide a negative PCR test.
In a letter to practices – dated 12 August, and sent a few days ahead of the rule change – NHSE said that those who have been pinged will need to take a lateral flow test before the start of each shift for a minimum of 10 days.
Previous guidance issued last month, which applied to frontline staff only, had recommended staff take daily lateral flow tests for just seven days.
NHSE clarified that its new guidance supersedes previous PHE guidance and that it now applies to all staff including substantive clinical and non-clinical roles and those on the staffbank.
Additionally, employers were asked to continue hosting one-to-one conversations with staff to encourage vaccine uptake. They should also impose ‘robust’ processes for monitoring staff testing.
In its letter, NHSE also said: ‘Local workplace risk assessments should take place to identify specific services that involve the care of immunocompromised patients.’
It added that local senior clinical decision-makers should request that returning contact positive staff or students are ‘redeployed to other areas of lower risk where appropriate’ to protect those patients.
Last month’s decision to remove self-isolation for frontline staff was criticised for failing to consider the concerns of extremely vulnerable staff.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the new guidance would help address the fact that ‘there are large numbers of staff self-isolating’.
However, he added: ‘But much more needs to be done to help the NHS deal with the enormous challenges it faces over the next nine months, as staff work flat out to bear down on a massive care backlog, press ahead with the next phase of the vaccination campaign, deal with likely further waves of COVID-19 and very high levels of urgent care demand, as well as the prospect of one of the worst winters on record.’
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