Last reviewed 17 August 2021

NHS England (NHSE) has written to GP practices advising that double-jabbed NHS staff and students who are identified as close contacts of a Covid-19 case “will no longer be expected to isolate and will be expected to return to work”. 

The updated (PHE) guidance on NHS staff and student self-isolation and return to work following Covid-19 contact was sent by NHS Chief People Officer Prerana Issar, Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May and Medical Director for Primary Care Dr Nikita Kanani on 12 August, to inform staff of how the changes in self-isolation requirements of 16 August 2021 will impact them.

The letter said fully vaccinated staff and students who are identified as a contact of a positive Covid-19 case will no longer be expected to isolate and will be expected to return to work from 16 August, provided they return a negative PCR test.

The letter added that if the criteria set out in the letter cannot be met, or if the staff member/student has not had both doses of the vaccine, or they are living directly (same household) with a positive Covid-19 case, they will be asked not to come to work.

However, they may still be able to return to work following a risk assessment. NHS England said: “There may be times when it is appropriate for the staff/student living with a positive Covid-19 case to return to work, in line with Government guidance, in a risk-assessed way, but this should be through a process agreed with an appropriate senior decision maker (eg DPH/DIPC). 

“All staff and students must have an up to date individual risk assessment and be working in an appropriate setting for their risk status.”

Practices should also risk-assess services to identify those that “involve the care of immunocompromised patients” and ensure that “returning contact positive” staff or students are redeployed away from their care “where appropriate”.

This follows a previous announcement in July that fully-vaccinated GPs who are identified as a close contact of someone with Covid could avoid self-isolation in “exceptional circumstances”.