COVID-19: Staff Information Hub

COVID FAQs: Staff Guidance

On 19th July 2021, England moves into stage 4 of the ‘covid roadmap’. We recognise that this means most legal restrictions will be removed at this time however, the current guidance also specifies that caution and judgement be used to minimise risk.

Within our region the number of covid cases are continuing to rise and, as such, we have had increased numbers of staff needing to self-isolate following potential contact with a positive case and / or communication from track and trace. We are therefore maintaining our current working practices past the 19th July which will include:

  • Continued use of appropriate PPE within healthcare settings (in line with guidance).
  • Lateral Flow testing available to all staff for continued asymptomatic testing.
  • Continuing wearing of face masks in all settings when walking around a building, in meetings etc.
  • Please do ensure you continue to clean surfaces regularly including common touch points such as kitchen areas etc. For example, cleaning keyboards, kettles etc before and after use.
  • Keeping areas as well ventilated as possible.
  • Maintaining social distancing – this will include continued home working rotas in the areas of the organisation where this is possible.
  • Updating covid risk assessments if there has been any change, for example a new medication, confirmed pregnancy etc. Please do discuss this with your line manager as soon as possible.

Please do not come to work if you display any symptoms. Currently the national guidance still lists these as:

  • A new continuous cough
  • A high temperature
  • A loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste of smell.

We are however aware that for many who test positive with the Delta variant these can be more like the common cold including a sore throat, headache and other cold like symptoms. Please be aware of this and make a judgement call in terms of isolating and arranging testing.

We recognise that this may be frustrating for many of you and would like to thank you for your continued patience and ongoing service to our patient population during this time.

We anticipate that these arrangements will continue for a further two months subject to regular review including if, as expected, the rules related to self-isolation for those fully vaccinated is amended on 16th August; please do ensure that you inform the workforce team of your vaccination status via workforcesupport@brisdoc.org if you haven’t already done so.

It is important that we all rest and look after our own wellbeing at this time and so, we ask that individuals continue to book and take annual leave. We have confirmed that currently our standard ‘carry forward’ and ‘buy back’ procedures for 2021 – 2022 remain in place and therefore any untaken annual leave outside of these parameters will be lost.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against travel to Red List countries. For those that are Amber or green you must follow the appropriate rules in relation to testing and quarantine when you return to England.

Please see Travel abroad from England during coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) for up-to-date information.

As a general principle, if an individual returns from an overseas holiday where quarantine is required, where possible, and the service can accommodate, individuals will need to book additional leave to cover this self-isolation period. If this is not possible then we will look at whether home working or shift swaps would be practical and may also look at unpaid leave to cover any outstanding period.

In deciding which of these options (or combination of) is appropriate consideration will be given to when the travel arrangements were made and the reason for travel.

Please ensure that you discuss any travel plans and potential quarantine implications with your line manager well in advance of travel / annual leave dates. If you believe that you may be exempt from the English boarder rules, please also discuss this with your line manager before travel.

At this time, we are continuing with our standard ‘carry forward’ and ‘buy back’ procedures. These are:

  • Holiday Buy Back: BrisDoc operates a flexible holiday arrangement to enable all staff to ‘sell’ holiday back to BrisDoc at their normal (or average, if more than one) rate of pay. This only applies to holiday above the statutory minimum that has not been used, and must be agreed in advance with your Line Manager at least 4 weeks before 31st December. Holiday entitlement not used by the correct date or agreed to be bought back by BrisDoc will usually be lost. Holiday buy back is paid in January payroll.
  • Holiday Carry Forward: In exceptional circumstances, employees can carry forward up to a maximum of 1 weeks’ worth of annual leave over and above the statutory minimum into the following year. This equates to the employee’s average weekly hours. Any holiday carried forward must be taken by the 31st March each year, or it will be lost.

Most legal restrictions to control COVID-19 have been lifted at step 4 meaning that the requirement to wear face coverings in law has been lifted. However, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport. Within our services we are maintaining our current working practices including the the wearing of face coverings.

Face coverings do not replace social distancing. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, and/or high temperature, and/or loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste – anosmia), you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

Within a work environment BrisDoc will provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including face masks where required in line with the national guidance.

Further information can be found here:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): personal protective equipment (PPE) hub – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Guide to donning and doffing standard Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (brisdoc.co.uk)

While most legal restrictions within England have been removed however the national advice is to “act carefully and remain cautious”.

NHS Guidance suggests the following to limit the spread of the virus:

  • get vaccinated – everyone aged 18 or over can book COVID-19 vaccination appointments now

  • meet people outside if possible

  • open doors and windows to let in fresh air if meeting people inside

  • limit the number of people you meet and avoid crowded places

  • wear a face covering when it’s hard to stay away from other people – particularly indoors or in crowded places

  • wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day

Stay at home if you have coronavirus symptoms:

  • high temperature– this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.

How long to stay at home? Please see updated government advice explaining what to do for negative, positive and inconclusive test results for each test type –  Your coronavirus (COVID-19) test result – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

If you are need to self-isolate in line with this advice, please contact you manager as per your normal absence reporting procedures.

This period will be treated as a ‘sick period’. We recognise that staff may not be able to obtain a GP fit note for a sickness period over 7 days, if your period of Covid related sickness extends this period please use 111 online to obtain an isolation note via Get an isolation note – NHS (111.nhs.uk) and submit this to the workforce team.

Download – Guidance for NHS staff returning to work following a covid contact inc area risk assessment

From Monday 16th August 2021, the national advice on self-isolation for those who have received two covid vaccinations or, are under 18 years of age, changed.

In response to this, Public Health England have updated their advice to staff providing services within the NHS.

Moving forward fully vaccinated staff who are identified as a contact of a positive COVID-19 case, will no longer be required to isolate and will be expected to return to work. However, the safeguards below will need to be met for this to happen safely.

If these safeguards cannot be met, or if the staff member has not had both doses of the vaccine, or they are living directly (same household) with a positive COVID-19 case, they will continue to be asked to isolate in most cases

  • A negative PCR test prior to returning to their NHS workplace.
    If you have been identified as a close contact, please arrange a PCR test via Get a free PCR test to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Please do not attend work while awaiting the PCR test result. Please note, if you have previously received a positive PCR test result in the last 90 days do not undertake a new PCR test unless you have symptoms, in this situation please contact your line manager.
  • 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.
    If you have not yet had your vaccinations, please arrange these as soon as possible and inform the workforce team following each vaccination via workforcesupport@brisdoc.org.
  • Daily negative LFD antigen tests for a minimum of 10 days (to include non-working days).
    Please ensure that you have arranged appropriate LFD tests before commencing a shift. All LFD antigen test results must be reported to Test and Trace via the web portal Report a COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test result – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and to your line manager who will inform the workforce team (for ease please forward the email from Test and Trace confirming the result). Any person who has a positive LFD test should self-isolate and arrange a PCR test.
    LFD antigen tests can be obtained from the national programme via Order coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow tests – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) or via each service as per current protocols.
  • The staff member is and remains asymptomatic – if you become symptomatic you must isolate and arrange a PCR test.
  • Continued use of infection prevention control measures, in line with the current UK guidance.

In addition, each service will need to undertake a risk assessment to ascertain if the individual works within a higher or lower risk area. If the individual works in a higher risk area (for example with immunocompromised patients) then they may need to move roles / tasks for the 10-day period.

Following this change in guidance we will be amending our procedures in relation to self-isolation sick pay. Previously we have guaranteed that all staff, irrespective of length of service, will receive a sick pay allocation of a minimum of 14 days pro rata at full pay (1 period only, inclusive of SSP where applicable) in addition to their contractual sick pay entitlement, allowing an additional paid sickness period due to either covid or associated self-isolation.

Going forward, this will only be available for those with a positive covid test (PCR) or those who have to self-isolate as they are not fully vaccinated due to ineligibility (i.e., those who are not front-line workers, who due to age have not become eligible for both vaccinations, or those who are medically exempt) or due to living with someone with Covid-19. In other situations, contractual sick pay will apply.

The workforce team will need to use the records held within your personnel file to clarify vaccination status, please do ensure that you have informed the workforce team of this via workforcesupport@brisdoc.org.

Most recent government guidance for the public states if someone you live with has symptoms of COVID-19, or has tested positive for COVID-19, you will not need to self-isolate if certain criteria apply however, Public Health England advice for NHS staff has confirmed that if an NHS staff member is living directly (same household) with a positive (or suspected) Covid-19 case then they will need to continue to self isolate  in most cases.

Full guidance can be found at – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/nhs-test-and-trace-if-youve-been-in-contact-with-a-person-who-has-coronavirus/

If you’re told to self-isolate because you’ve been in contact with a person who has coronavirus and you are not exempt, you must do so.

NHS Test and Trace will check whether you are legally required to self-isolate. If you are, you must self-isolate until 10 full days after you were in contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

In this situation please inform your line manager as per standard sickness reporting routes. If you are able to work from home during this period, this would be preferable. If you are unable to work from home then this will be recorded as sickness absence.

Full guidance can be found at – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/nhs-test-and-trace-if-youve-been-in-contact-with-a-person-who-has-coronavirus/

If you’re told to self-isolate because you’ve been in contact with a person who has coronavirus you must self-isolate for 14 days from the day you were last in contact with the person. In this situation please inform your line manager as per standard sickness reporting routes. If you are able to work from home during this period, this would be preferable. If you are unable to work from home then this will be recorded as sickness absence.

People you live with or in your support bubble do not need to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms.

Please also remember to follow normal sickness processes to inform your line manager that you are self-isolating in line with national guidance.

Wherever possible we will ask staff to work remotely. However, if this is not possible due to the nature of the role you may be asked to attend a different BrisDoc site if possible.

Where this is not available or staff are asked to remain away from all sites, then staff will receive their normal contracted rates of pay.

While your child may have been asked to self-isolate, unless they have symptoms, you will not need to. While recognising there may be caring responsibilities, from an isolation perspective you are able to follow your ‘normal’ routine, including coming into the workplace.

The reality is that, for many of us in this situation, we will need to be at home to care for dependents, while also being needed in our services to care for patients in a variety of ways. We would ask you to work with your line manager and colleagues to balance these conflicting demands. This might include:

  • remote working where feasible
  • changes in working pattern​, so for example working evenings instead of days, this could mean working in alternate services
  • sharing caring responsibilities wherever possible to allow periods of work even where ‘normal’ hours are not met
  • using a proportion of annual leave during this time (and certainly that accrued during this period) – this would need to be recorded as annual leave.

At present, our policy allows for staff to be paid for up to 5 days pro rata within a rolling 12 months.

At this time there is no national guidance related to reimbursing carers for long term absence and we are seeking further clarity on this. That said we are hoping that, in working together, we are able to find a path that allows individuals to continue to work, all be it with potential adjustments, while reducing the financial implications for individuals.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) can make anyone seriously ill. But for some people, the risk is higher.

DOWNLOAD THE BRISDOC RISK ASSESSMENT

People most at risk of getting seriously ill are known as clinically extremely vulnerable.

You’re considered clinically extremely vulnerable if:

  • your doctor or GP has classed you as clinically extremely vulnerable because they think you’re at high risk of getting seriously ill
  • you’ve been identified as possibly being at high risk through the COVID-19 Population Risk Assessment
  • you’ve had an organ transplant
  • you’re having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy
  • you’re having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer
  • you’re having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors)
  • you have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
  • you’ve had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
  • you’ve been told by a doctor you have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD)
  • you have a condition that means you have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID or sickle cell)
  • you’re taking medicine that makes you much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppressant medicine)
  • you have a serious heart condition and are pregnant
  • you have a problem with your spleen or your spleen has been removed (splenectomy)
  • you’re an adult with Down’s syndrome
  • you’re an adult who is having dialysis or has severe (stage 5) long-term kidney disease

Shielding advice was paused on 1 April 2021. As restrictions have been eased following the move to Step 4 of the roadmap, clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised, as a minimum, to follow the same guidance as everyone else. Further information can be found at Guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

To support our staff to follow this advice line managers are continuing to update risk assessments with their staff members as needed, there will be oversight of these assessments by a clinical lead.

If you believe that you are ‘at risk’ and are concerned that socially distancing measures have not been discussed / actioned please contact your line manager or the workforce team via workforcesupport@brisdoc.org

We will listen to any concerns staff may have and if there are genuine concerns, we will try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of our staff. However, if an employee refuses to attend work, and after consideration of circumstances appears to be without valid reason, such a stance cannot be supported and could result in disciplinary action.

Yes! If you are in a position to work additional hours either within your current service or, an alternate service please contact the rota team via brisdoc.rotateam@nhs.net

For this period, we do not wish to restrict individuals working time. However, we would ask that all staff have at least 1 rest day per week and, we would not wish any staff member to work over 12 hours per shift (taking the appropriate breaks).

If you have any concerns over individual staff working hours during this time please do discuss these with the workforce team.

This last year has been challenging for us all. We need to be kind to each other and support each other. This includes those physically in work and those who have needed to self-isolate or have become unwell.

The staff wellbeing hub at https://brisdoc.co.uk/staff-well-being-hub has access to a range of resources to help support individuals including the telephone number for our confidential staff support line. In addition, Mind have some excellent advice and support on how we can help support our mental health at this time – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing

If you have any suggestions for improving this wellbeing hub or would like any additional support please do not hesitate to contact the workforce team via workforcesupport@brisdoc.org.

On 2nd April 2020 a joint letter was issued from the Department for Health and Social Care, NHS Resolution, and NHS England and NHS Improvement regarding clinical negligence indemnity in response to Coronavirus.

Please see the attachment on the CEM/CMO/2020/013 alert via https://www.cas.mhra.gov.uk/ViewAndAcknowledgment/viewAlert.aspx?AlertID=103017

Covid Safe Working recommendations suggest that, where possible, personal items should be stored within personal storage spaces.

Within our workplaces there is often limited space to allow this. We would therefore ask that staff limit the number of personal belongings that they bring into the workplace where possible. We understand that in winter months this is may become more challenging and will review the situation again nearer this time.

While shared spaces will be regularly cleaned individuals are reminded that, they too, can use cleaning wipes when using shared storage spaces such as fridges in line with the requirements when using shared office spaces.

Key principles:

This is a case by case risk assessment to cover situations where staff members are instructed to isolate having been identified through NHS Test and Trace the NHS Covid App and other formal contact tracing routes or where staff members live with a positive covid case.

This risk assessment should only be used in exceptional circumstances, e.g. where care or other statutory responsibilities cannot be delivered safely.  It should not be used to authorise blanket exemptions.  It is expected all infection, prevention and control (IPC) measures remain in place.

Download the Exceptional Risk Assessment Form HERE

Useful Resources

Need more advice?

Contact the Workforce Support Team

0117 9370 902

Visit the wellbeing hub