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GPs and staff with Covid should not attend work, UKHSA says


Covid GPs work


GPs and practice staff who test positive for Covid should not attend work, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed.

Mandatory self-isolation for those who test positive is no longer legally enforceable from today.

The laws have been replaced with guidance advising people to ‘stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days’ and until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.

But updated UKHSA advice for healthcare professionals has confirmed that advice to staff working in healthcare settings such as GP practices ‘has not changed’ due to the ‘higher risk nature’ of these settings.

The guidance, updated today, said any GP or staff member with the main Covid symptoms – a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell – should ‘stay at home and arrange to have a PCR test’.

They should not attend work while awaiting their test result and should ‘return home as soon as possible’ if already at work, it added.

Staff should not return to work until they have had two consecutive negative lateral flow tests taken 24-hours apart – with the first taken no sooner than five days after initial symptom onset – and they ‘feel well’ and do not have a high temperature, it said.

They must continue to test negative daily via LFT until day 10, but those who continue to test positive from day 10 and have no symptoms can return to work following a risk assessment.

This remains in line with previous guidance.

Guidance for GPs and practice staff on Covid isolation

Health and social care staff with COVID-19 should not attend work until they have had 2 consecutive negative LFD test results (taken at least 24 hours apart), they feel well, and they do not have a high temperature. The first LFD test should only be taken from 5 days after the day their symptoms started (or the day their test was taken if they did not have symptoms) – this is described as Day 0. If both LFD tests results are negative they may return to work immediately after the second negative LFD test result, provided they meet the criteria below:

  • the staff member’s symptoms have resolved, or their only symptoms are cough or anosmia which can last for several weeks
  • if the staff member works with patients or residents who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 (as determined by the organisation), a risk assessment should be undertaken, and consideration should be given to redeployment until period10 days after their symptoms started (or the day their test was taken if they did not have symptoms)
  • the staff member should continue to undertake daily LFD tests until 10 days after their symptoms started (or the day their test was taken if they did not have symptoms). For example:
    • if the first negative LFD test was taken on the fifth day, and the second negative LFD test was taken on the sixth day, they can return to work but should continue to take LFD tests on days 7, 8, 9 and 10
    • if the first negative LFD test was taken on the sixth day and the second negative LFD test was taken on the seventh day, they can return to work but should continue to take LFD tests on days 8, 9 and 10
  • if any of these LFD test results are positive the staff member should isolate and should wait 24 hours before taking the next LFD test
  • on days the staff member is working, the LFD test should be taken prior to beginning their shift, as close as possible to the start time
  • the staff member must continue to comply with all relevant infection control precautions and personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn properly throughout the day

The likelihood of a positive LFD test in the absence of a high temperature after 10 days is low. If the staff member’s LFD test result is positive on the 10th day, they should continue to take daily LFD tests, and can return to work after a single negative LFD test result.

The likelihood of a positive LFD test after 14 days is considerably lower. If the staff member’s LFD test result is still positive on the 14th day, they can stop testing and return to work on day 15. If the staff member works with patients or residents who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 (as determined by the organisation), a risk assessment should be undertaken, and consideration given to redeployment.

Managers can undertake a risk assessment of staff who test positive between 10 and 14 days and who do not have a high temperature, with a view to them returning to work depending on the work environment.

Source: UKHSA

NHS England yesterday said that Covid-positive staff should not attend work, but that updated guidance would follow.

It instructed GP practices to ‘ensure staff are not required to work if they test positive for Covid-19’ and that any staff who must be ‘physically present’ to carry out their duties receive full pay for any period they cannot attend work due to public health advice.

It comes as NHS England also said that patients, staff and visitors should continue to wear face masks in GP practices, with ‘no immediate changes’ to infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance as the country moves into the ‘Living with Covid’ strategy.

And it said it will write to staff ‘in the coming weeks’ with detail on testing for staff and patients, as free testing for most of the population is set to end from April.

GPs had expressed concerns about the safety of vulnerable patients visiting their practices, as most Covid restrictions and measures are scrapped in England.

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