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Covid-19: HR Policy and Practice in the NHS

On 24 February 2022, all Covid-19 restrictions ended and free mass testing ended on 1 April 2022. Since then the Government published Living with Covid-19 White Paper — Update and Covid-19: Management of Staff and Exposed Patients or Residents in Health and Social Care Settings which can be found on the GOV.UK website.

However, NHS staff and patients in England must continue to follow the latest government guidance applicable to healthcare settings. The UK infection prevention and control guidance published by UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and accompanying letter from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) published on 14 April 2022, outlines the protocols to transition back to pre-pandemic measures. The national infection and prevention control manual for England supplements this, setting out how NHS organisations can ensure a successful transition.

In June 2022, NHSEI also published a letter on next steps on infection and prevention control outlining the transition back to pre-pandemic measures in relation to mask-wearing procedures for staff, patients and visitors.

Effective from 7 July 2022, the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) Covid-19 staff terms and condition guidance has been withdrawn.

In practice this includes:

  • access to full sick pay for new episodes of Covid-19 sickness

  • access to Covid-19 special leave for the purposes of self-isolation.

Transition guidance has been produced by the NHS Staff Council to support employers in both the management of staff back to their normal contractual sick pay arrangements as well as new Covid-19 cases. Additional FAQs relating to arrangements for staff who are required to stay away from the workplace are also available on the NHS employers Covid-19 pages.

The UK Health Security Agency’s Covid-19: Information and Advice for Health and Care Professionals also outlines important Covid-19 related precautions for both staff and patients.

In summary, from 24 February 2022 the Government has:

  • ended the legal requirement to isolate following a positive test

  • ended routine contact tracing, and no longer ask fully vaccinated close contacts and those under 18 to test daily for seven days

  • removed the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate.

From 1 April 2022 the Government encouraged people with Covid-19 symptoms to exercise personal responsibility.

NHS staff office workers will no longer be required to work from home.

In the Government guidance, Managing Healthcare Staff with Symptoms of a Respiratory Infection or a Positive Covid-19 Test Result, regardless of whether they have symptoms, staff are advised not to attend work for five days.

On the topic of NHS staff testing, employers are required to continue to follow guidance issued by NHS England and NHS Improvement on staff testing procedures. The guidance requires patient facing NHS staff to continue to test twice weekly when asymptomatic.

Staff who are household contacts of a positive Covid-19 case will now be able to continue to work as normal if they remain asymptomatic and continue to test twice weekly.

Readers are recommended to regularly refer to the NHS Employers Covid-19 webpages for further updates on the following topics:

  • infection control during Covid-19

  • risk assessments for staff

  • supporting our most vulnerable people

  • supporting staff with childcare responsibilities.

From 31 August 2022, asymptomatic Covid-19 testing has been paused in all remaining health and social care settings.

Employers are reminded to ensure that staff are aware of the following new guidance.

  • From 31 August 2022, routine asymptomatic testing will be paused across remaining settings, including hospitals and care homes.

  • Testing for individuals with symptoms in these settings, including health and social care staff, will continue.

  • Immunocompromised patients in hospitals and people being admitted into care homes and hospices will also continue to be tested.

For more information, read the Government’s guidance on asymptomatic testing rules and the updated guidance on infection prevention and control in adult social care.

In the autumn of 2022, NHS Employers announced that all frontline healthcare workers will be offered Covid-19 and flu vaccinations this autumn.

Staff may be able to book their Covid-19 vaccination through their employer or they can book through the national booking service. Employers should provide the seasonal flu vaccines as part of the organisations’ policy.

Employers are asked to have conversations with their staff encouraging them to take up the vaccines in order to protect themselves, their colleagues, patients and services.

Covid-19: HR Policy and Practice in the NHS: Quick Facts
  • As the need to respond promptly to the Covid-19 crisis has increased in recent weeks, plans have continued to be put in place across the health and social care system co-ordinated by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England and NHS Improvement, Public Health England (PHE), Health Education England and NHS Employers.

  • Plans include redeployment of staff from other settings, bringing staff back from retirement, enabling staff movement between employers, speeding up pre-employment checks, revised terms and conditions and ensuring the provision of adequate training facilities for all staff.

  • As the weeks have progressed, focus has shifted to developing and implementing strategies for protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of all NHS staff.