Continued Covid testing for GPs and practice staff from April is being reviewed, NHS England has said, amid concerns that GPs have been left in the dark over whether new self-isolation rules coming into force on Thursday apply to them.
A spokesperson told Management in Practice’s sister title Pulse on background that NHS England is working through what might happen after 1 April, when free testing ends for the general public.
They added that it would be wrong to suggest that the NHS is planning to scrap staff testing after 1 April, although they did not confirm whether it will continue.
The spokesperson stressed that NHS England’s current testing guidance stands for the next six weeks and that it would update colleagues as soon as possible on any changes.
It comes as the prime minister this week announced that mandatory self-isolation for those who have tested positive for Covid-19 will no longer be legally required from tomorrow (24 February).
Patients still need to wear face masks in practices
Patients, staff and visitors should continue to wear face masks in GP practices, NHS England has said.
There will be ‘no immediate changes’ to infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance, NHS England confirmed, as the country moves into the ‘Living with Covid’ strategy from tomorrow.
In a letter sent to GP practices and PCNs today, NHS England also said that Covid-positive staff should not attend work, but that updated guidance will be published tomorrow.
And it reiterated that NHS England will write to staff ‘in the coming weeks’ with detail on testing protocols for staff and patients.
‘Living with Covid’ plan
Meanwhile, the current self-isolation laws will be replaced by guidance advising people take a ‘personal responsibility’ not to infect others, similar to how one might act if they had the flu, Mr Johnson suggested.
But so far, there is no detail on what the plans mean for GPs.
It remains unclear whether GPs and staff will also no longer be required to isolate, patients can turn up to healthcare settings with Covid symptoms and IPC guidance for general practice be relaxed.
An NHS England spokesperson told Pulse on background that it will publish new guidance for healthcare professionals on self-isolation as soon as it can.
However, they declined to provide a formal statement.
And the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) did not respond to Pulse’s requests for clarification.
Meanwhile, health secretary Sajid Javid yesterday defended the decision to end free testing and Covid restrictions in England.
He told BBC News that it did not make sense to continue offering free tests indefinitely.
He also said that ‘yesterday was a historic day in our fight against this pandemic’, but that it is likely new variants will emerge over the next few years.
The Government’s ‘Living with Covid’ strategy published yesterday set out further details of the new guidance coming into force on Thursday.
The document, which applies only to England, added that there will be ‘specific guidance for staff in particularly vulnerable services, such as adult social care, healthcare, and prisons and places of detention’.
And it said that the NHS will ‘continue’ to provide access to free PPE until the end of March 2023 ‘or until the IPC guidance on PPE usage for Covid-19 is amended or superseded – whichever is sooner’.
Versions of these stories appeared on our sister title, Pulse.
Category => Covid-19
Category => News