Fully vaccinated GPs who are identified as a close contact of a Covid case will be ‘expected to return to work’ thanks to their self-isolation exemption.
From today, double-jabbed contacts of Covid cases, as well as contacts aged under 18, will no longer be legally required to self-isolate provided they return a negative PCR test.
It follows the announcement in July that fully-vaccinated GPs who are identified as a close contact of someone with Covid could avoid self-isolation in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
GPs told Pulse that they plan to take a cautious approach as the Government lifts requirements for self-isolation, saying they will keep measures in place and ask staff to self-isolate anyway to keep vulnerable patients safe.
But in a letter sent to practices on Thursday, NHS England said that double-jabbed NHS staff and students who are identified as close contacts of a Covid case ‘will no longer be expected to isolate and will be expected to return to work’.
It added that those who live in the same household as the positive case are not generally exempt from self-isolation, although they may still be able to return to work following a risk assessment.
NHS England said: ‘There may be times when it is appropriate for the staff/student living with a positive Covid-19 case to return to work, in line with Government guidance, in a risk-assessed way, but this should be through a process agreed with an appropriate senior decision maker (eg DPH/DIPC).
‘All staff and students must have an up to date individual risk assessment and be working in an appropriate setting for their risk status.’
Practices should also risk-assess services to identify those that ‘involve the care of immunocompromised patients’ and ensure that ‘returning contact positive’ staff or students are redeployed away from their care ‘where appropriate’, it added.
Meanwhile, the letter also extended the length of time NHS staff Covid contacts need to take daily lateral flow tests from a minimum of seven days to a minimum of 10.
Previous Government guidance said that isolation requirements would be replaced with daily negative lateral flow tests for ‘a minimum of seven days and up to 10 days or completion of the identified self-isolation period’.
But NHS England’s letter said that staff and students eligible for the exemption must provide ‘daily negative LFD antigen tests for a minimum of 10 days before commencing a shift’.
It reiterated that vaccinated healthcare staff and students who are identified as Covid contacts should await a negative PCR test before returning to work.
This guidance differs to that for the double-jabbed and under-18s in the general public, who do not have to isolate if identified as a close contact while they wait for their PCR test result.
GP leaders had previously expressed their intention to continue with self-isolation requirements for practice staff, despite the new government guidance, to protect both staff and patients.