Frontline health and care staff can work rather than self-isolate

20 July 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that from 19 July double vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff in England who have been told to self-isolate can attend work with testing mitigations in exceptional circumstances.

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

The new instructions 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.

In order to alleviate pressure on NHS and social care services, the Government said this measure 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 DHSC said 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, only after a risk assessment by the organisation’s management, and 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 and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that 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. He said: “They will continue to receive self-isolation reminders.”

To mitigate the increased risk associated with attending work, the following must be implemented:

  • the staff member should have had both doses of an MHRA approved vaccination with 14 days having elapsed since the final dose

  • the staff member should take a PCR test, self-isolate until they receive the result, and only attend work if the result is negative

  • they should undertake daily LFD tests before starting work each day, report results to NHS Test and Trace via the web portal and to their duty manager; any staff member with a positive LFD test during this period should not attend work and should arrange a PCR test as soon as possible

  • if the staff member develops any Covid-19 symptoms, they should stay at home and immediately arrange a PCR test

  • staff working during this 10-day period should comply with all relevant infection control precautions and PPE should be properly worn throughout the day; any breaches should be reported immediately to their line manager

  • the staff member should not work with clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) patients or residents, as determined by the organisation.

The DHSC announcement is here.

Guidance from Public Health England will be updated and published here.