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COVID-19 social distancing is scrapped in the NHS

Nurses no longer need to keep patients apart in healthcare settings, with NHS providers in England told to return to pre-pandemic physical distancing
Standing nurse leans down to talk to a girl and woman seated, all wearing masks

Nurses no longer need to keep patients apart in healthcare settings, with NHS providers in England told to return to pre-pandemic physical distancing

Nurses no longer need to keep patients apart from each other in healthcare settings, as COVID-19 social distancing is axed in the NHS.

Guidance published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) instructs all NHS providers in England to ‘return to pre-pandemic physical distancing in all areas’.

The new infection prevention control (IPC) guidance covers all areas, including emergency departments and other hospital settings, ambulances, patient transport services and GP surgeries.

Nurses no longer need to keep patients apart in healthcare settings, with NHS providers in England told to return to pre-pandemic physical distancing

Standing nurse leans down to talk to a girl and woman seated, all wearing masks
Picture: iStock

Nurses no longer need to keep patients apart from each other in healthcare settings, as COVID-19 social distancing is axed in the NHS.

Guidance published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) instructs all NHS providers in England to ‘return to pre-pandemic physical distancing in all areas’.

The new infection prevention control (IPC) guidance covers all areas, including emergency departments and other hospital settings, ambulances, patient transport services and GP surgeries.

It also states that patients and staff should continue to practise good hand and respiratory hygiene, with the continued wearing of face masks by staff, patients and visitors ‘where clinically tolerated’.

A medic using hand cleaning gel
Picture: Charles Milligan

There will also be reduced isolation periods for patients testing positive for COVID-19 and changes to cleaning protocols, with enhanced cleaning only required in areas where patients with suspected or known infection are being cared for.

NHS England says service needs to adapt to operating with COVID-19 in ‘general circulation’

In a letter to local health leaders signed by deputy chief nursing officer Duncan Barton, NHS England says the service needs to adapt to operating with COVID-19 in ‘general circulation’ as the virus is likely to be ‘endemic for some time to come’.

It comes as the NHS has been working to tackle the backlog of care exacerbated by the pandemic, with the number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment at a record 6.2 million.

But NHS Confederation director of policy Layla McCay said the government needed to be realistic about how much the change in guidance would impact positively on patient capacity.

Dr McCay said: ‘The relaxation of these measures will free up extra capacity at a time when the elective care waiting list is the highest it has ever been.

‘However, there are still around 71,000 NHS staff absent from work currently, on top of 110,000 vacancies and huge problems with discharging medically fit patients out of hospital into the community, so realism is still needed about what the NHS can deliver.’


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