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Nursing staff must be protected as COVID-19 restrictions in England set to end

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Nursing staff must be protected as COVID-19 restri Nursing staff must be protected as COVID-19 restrictions in England set to end

New rules on isolation periods will place healthcare staff and patients at risk, the RCN has warned.

The government is expected to confirm plans to end the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive COVID-19 test, in a move described as signalling the end of the pandemic. But the RCN say the pandemic is far from over for health care staff, and the lack of clarity and guidance on isolation rules going forwards could put our members and their patients at risk.

‘Ending the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test is a big leap in the dark. The government has yet to present any scientific evidence to support its plan,’ said RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen.

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‘The public messaging around this is very mixed and unclear: with any other highly infectious disease you would be expected – and supported – to stay away from work if you caught it, yet with COVID-19 we’re being told you should learn to live with it. This doesn’t add up.’

According to the RCN, by ‘passing the buck’ to nursing staff and employers to decide when to work if staff fall sick with COVID-19, the government is leaving the way open to increased infection rates and yet more pressure on an already overworked NHS.

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‘Hospital admissions and deaths linked to coronavirus continue to fall nationally and this is allowing the NHS to bring back many routine services that it was asked to deprioritise during the peaks of the pandemic, including some non-urgent elective procedures. With the success of the vaccine and new Covid treatments, this offers real hope as we learn to live with the virus,’ said Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

‘But the Government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat has disappeared entirely. So much is uncertain still, including our long-term immunity and the emergence of future strains, which requires a solid testing infrastructure and clear guidance around self-isolation to remain in place.’

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