Self isolation to end for fully vaccinated

Updated 17th August 2021

As of 16th August 2021, the Government is changing the requirements to self-isolate following close contact with a positive COVID-19 case (see NHSE&I Letter dated 12th August 2021: Updated PHE guidance on NHS staff and student self-isolation and return to work following COVID-19 contact).

Fully vaccinated healthcare staff – include those working in community pharmacy – will no longer be expected to isolate and will be expected to return to work. However, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have written to NHS providers asking them to ensure that the following safeguards are put in place for them to safely do so:

  • the contact should obtain a negative PCR test prior to returning to their workplace (staff should not attend work while awaiting the PCR test result);
  • the staff member has had two doses of an approved vaccine, and is at least two weeks (14 days) post double vaccination at the point of exposure;
  • provision of subsequent, daily negative LFD antigen tests for a minimum of 10 days before commencing a shift (with test results reported to Test and Trace via the web portal and to their duty manager or an identified senior staff member). Any contact who has a positive LFD test should self-isolate and arrange a PCR test;
  • the staff member/student is and remains asymptomatic; and
  • continued use of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, in line with the current UK IPC guidance.

Any staff member who has not had both doses of the vaccine should continue to isolate in line with Government guidance.

Same household close contacts

In the NHSE&I letter, there is also specific guidance for staff members whose close contacts are in the same household. Generally, they should not be asked to come to work, but there are times when it may be appropriate for staff to return to work if this is supported by appropriate risk assessments.

The letter references the Public Health England advice for the COVID-19: management of staff and exposed patients or residents in health and social care settings which provides similar guidance, but rather than reference close contacts in the same household, it states that if the staff member works with patients or residents who are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 (as determined by the organisation), a risk assessment should be undertaken, and consideration given to redeployment during their 10 day self-isolation period. The expectation is that the staff member will return to work, but may carry out a different role, depending on the risk assessment.

While the emphasis or approach is different, the same result should be achieved, of protecting patients, customers and staff in accordance with health and safety legislation.