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COVID rules: will nurses be safe at work when restrictions end?

Health leaders speak out against scrapping of self-isolation, free lateral flow tests and compulsory face-covering, ahead of expected government announcement
Health leaders oppose end of COVID rules, including free lateral flow tests

Health leaders speak out against scrapping of self-isolation, free lateral flow tests and compulsory face-covering, ahead of expected government announcement

Nursing and other healthcare leaders have warned against scrapping free COVID tests and self-isolation rules ahead of the government’s plan for ‘living with coronavirus’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to set out a plan on Monday that would end the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test. The plan is also rumoured to include the axing of free COVID-19 tests and compulsory face coverings.

‘Ministers must get a grip and present a clear plan’

Health leaders speak out against scrapping of self-isolation, free lateral flow tests and compulsory face-covering, ahead of expected government announcement

Health leaders oppose end of COVID rules, including free lateral flow tests
Picture: iStock

Nursing and other healthcare leaders have warned against scrapping free COVID tests and self-isolation rules ahead of the government’s plan for ‘living with coronavirus’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to set out a plan on Monday that would end the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test. The plan is also rumoured to include the axing of free COVID-19 tests and compulsory face coverings.

‘Ministers must get a grip and present a clear plan’

The RCN said ministers are passing the buck to nursing staff and employers on when to work if they become ill with coronavirus. The college added nursing staff must continue to get free lateral flow tests.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘Ending the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test is a big leap in the dark.

‘Rather than passing the buck and leaving it up to employers and individuals to decide, ministers must grip the issue and present a clear plan for health and social care staff.’

‘A lot is at stake for the NHS’s recovery ambitions if the government is too gung-ho in its plans for exiting the pandemic’

Matthew Taylor, NHS Confederation

Opposition in NHS to lifting of COVID restrictions

In an NHS Confederation survey of 307 senior healthcare staff, including nurses, in England, 94% said free testing for healthcare staff and other key workers must continue. Currently NHS staff are asked to undertake two lateral flow tests at home per week.

A further 82% of respondents said they opposed ending compulsory mask-wearing in the NHS and care homes and three quarters said they disagree with scrapping the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive COVID result.

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said: ‘A lot is at stake for the NHS’s recovery ambitions if the government is too gung-ho in its plans for exiting the pandemic, which is why health leaders are calling for a cautious and evidence-led approach.’

While the government has confirmed that personal protective equipment will remain free for health and care staff in England throughout 2022/23, infection prevention and control guidance for the NHS has not confirmed future arrangements about the use of face coverings and other measures by staff, patients and visitors.

Failure to update infection prevention and control guidance would be reckless

When contacted by Nursing Standard last week The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), NHS England and Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) were unable to confirm how ending COVID-19 restrictions would affect invention prevention and control guidance in hospitals and other care settings.

Unions branded the lack of clear guidance ‘reckless’.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: ‘Without proper guidance, anyone working in hospitals and care homes will be forgiven for being confused about whether it’s safe for them to work.’


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