New rules mean health and care workers can skip self-isolation to attend work

Unions have questioned the move as staff are often working with the most vulnerable patients. 

Matt Bodell
19 July 2021
Nurses wearing masks

Staff will be permitted to skip self-isolation if their isolation would be detrimental to patient care.

New rules mean that frontline health and social care workers can skip self-isolation under certain circumstances.

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From today double vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff in England who have been told to self-isolate will be permitted to attend work if isolation would be detrimental to patient care.

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.

A risk of harm.

The government is clear the change applies only to frontline NHS and social care staff where their absence may lead to a significant risk of harm.

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A decision to allow a member of 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.

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.”

Vulnerable patients.

Unions have questioned the move as staff are often working with the most vulnerable patients.

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Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “Our NHS and ambulance service are operating under extreme pressure, with chronic staff shortages, fatigue and exhaustion.

“Yet today – the Government’s so called Freedom Day – they have had to issue exemptions for staff as services struggle to cope with rising cases. Ministers have no regard for the welfare of staff at all. That’s apparent, as the guidelines only exempt staff from self-isolation to attend work, and not outside of work.

“If this is a safe thing to do, why does it also come with the caveat of not being able to work with clinically extremely vulnerable people?”

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