Our websites are being upgraded between 8.30pm Wednesday 5th October and 3am Thursday 6th October. During that time you may experience difficulty accessing some of our content. We apologise for any inconvenience.
News

Nurses out of self-isolation sooner – what this means for safety

COVID-19 rule change designed to ease nurse staffing crisis as NHS and social care services continue to struggle with high absence levels
A negative lateral flow test result for coronavirus

Union calls for nurses to get exemption from shorter self-isolation rule, as scientific adviser admits ‘practical’ measure does carry increased risk

The shorter COVID-19 isolation period has now come into effect in England, meaning nurses testing negative can return to work sooner.

From 17 January, people in England who test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms can come out of isolation after five full days, provided they test negative on days five and six.

The government says the rule change will support essential public services and tackle the sickness absence crisis among health and social care staff. UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data showed around two thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five.

Union calls for nurses to get exemption from shorter self-isolation rule, as scientific adviser admits ‘practical’ measure does carry increased risk

A negative lateral flow test result for coronavirus
Picture: iStock

The shorter COVID-19 isolation period has now come into effect in England, meaning nurses testing negative can return to work sooner.

From 17 January, people in England who test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms can come out of isolation after five full days, provided they test negative on days five and six.

The government says the rule change will support essential public services and tackle the sickness absence crisis among health and social care staff. UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data showed around two thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five.

How will the changes affect nursing staff?

Nurses who have tested positive for COVID-19 can leave self-isolation at the start of day six if they have returned a negative lateral flow test on days five and six of isolation.

The UKHSA advised that nurses returning to work should continue to test up to day 10, because they are likely to come into close contact with vulnerable people.

Those who continue to test positive can come out of isolation after day 10, even if they are still testing positive by then, according to Department of Health and Social Care guidance.

What is the current situation with staff sickness absence?

Some 40,031 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for COVID-19 reasons on 9 January, up 2% on the previous week (39,142) – and more than three times the number at the start of December.

But NHS England data show hospital staff absence due to COVID-19 has fallen every day since a peak of 49,941 on 5 January. The total includes staff who were ill with coronavirus or who were having to self-isolate.

Are the self-isolation changes safe?

Mike Tildesley, University of Warwick professor of infectious disease modelling and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, concedes the rule changes do come with increased risk but it was a ‘practical thing’.

‘We’re seeing an awful lot of absences, and it’s particularly concerning in healthcare, so if we can reduce the isolation period then that will allow more people to get back to work,’ he added.

The RCN called for health and care workers to be exempt from the changes, adding workforce pressures must not force unsafe reduction in isolation requirements.

‘This change could increase the risk of transmission to other staff and patients,’ warned college general secretary Pat Cullen.


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first three months:

  • Customisable clinical dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals including Emergency Nurse
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • NMC-compliant RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs