New rules for critical health workers to dodge Covid self-isolation

Pingdemic pass for NHS staff: Ministers issue new rules for health workers to dodge isolation if pinged under extreme circumstances to head-off growing crisis crippling Britain’s wards

  • Healthcare workers had to self-isolate at home if they were ‘pinged’ by NHS app
  • The Government faced pressure as the rule took great toll on hospitals and staff
  • Under the new rules, they can return to work if they have had a negative PCR test
  • Staff must take daily lateral flow tests and should wear PPE throughout their day

Critical frontline NHS and social care staff will be able to avoid self-isolation to go to work from today if they are double-jabbed, the Government announced last night.

Ministers were under intense pressure to intervene as the ‘pingdemic’ took its toll on hospitals, with some forced to call off operations because of staff shortages.

Healthcare workers who have been in contact with a positive case will now, in exceptional circumstances, be able to return to work after they have had a negative PCR test.

They must then take daily lateral flow tests, and should wear PPE properly throughout their day at work.

It will apply to staff who have either been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace. Staff who are permitted to go to work will remain under a legal duty to self-isolate as a close contact but will be considered to have a ‘reasonable excuse’ to attend work if their absence could result in harm.

Critical frontline NHS and social care staff will be able to avoid self-isolation to go to work from today if they are double-jabbed, the Government announced last night (file pictured)

Decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis and only after a risk assessment by the organisation’s management, the Government said.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last night: ‘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.’

UK Health Security Agency chief executive Jenny Harries said it was ‘imperative that we do everything we can to manage this virus and support our NHS and social care services under the strain of increased demand and sustained pressure’ amid rising cases.

‘We have provided specific guidance to NHS and social care settings for circumstances where there is a significant risk to health or safety resulting from staff absence or a critical service cannot run.

‘This measure only applies to double-vaccinated staff, who will only be able to attend work after testing negative on PCR and daily lateral flow tests, and following a risk assessment and the supervision of the health service.’

Critical staff who are ‘pinged’ will be able to return to work if they pass a PCR test and wear PPE

Several hospital trusts have hundreds of staff isolating at any one time. This has led to operations being cancelled in Leeds, Birmingham and in the North East.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham has postponed planned surgery for two days.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the loss of staff is having a ‘significant impact’.

He added: ‘We absolutely know it’s contributing in some places to trusts having to reduce the amounts of elective surgery they’re doing.’

Last week the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine issued a call to exempt double-jabbed NHS staff from isolation over close contacts.

‘The risk of patients contracting Covid from vaccinated healthcare staff is minimal compared to the damage patients could suffer by having their treatment delayed,’ they said.

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