Advice on Covid-19 for England

Updated UK Health Security Agency guidance on NHS staff, student and volunteer self-isolation and return to work following COVID-19 contact

16 December 2021

The government has announced the move to Plan B in England in response to the emerging risks of the Omicron variant. Full details of Plan B can be read in Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.

The UKHSA has also updated its COVID-19: management of staff and exposed patients or residents in health and social care guidance to reflect self-isolation changes when in contact with a confirmed or suspected Omicron variant case.

This eNews provides a summary of the latest guidelines and applies to all staff including substantive clinical and non-clinical roles, bank staff, contractors and suppliers; students working in all facilities, settings and organisations delivering NHS care and volunteers working in settings with patients.

If a staff member develops any of the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild:

• They should follow the stay at home guidance and arrange to have a PCR test either through their workplace arrangements or the Test and Trace service, as soon as possible.

• If at home (off-duty), they should not attend work whilst awaiting their PCR test result and should notify their employer or line manager immediately.

• If at work, they should inform their employer or line manager and return home as soon as possible.

• If a staff member receives a positive SARS-CoV-2 PCR test result, they must self-isolate for 10 days.

• If a staff member’s self-reported SARS-CoV-2 LFD antigen test result is positive, they should self-isolate immediately.

• They should arrange to have a follow-up PCR test as soon as possible, either through their workplace arrangements or the Test and Trace service and should continue to self-isolate whilst awaiting their PCR test result.

• If the follow-up PCR result is positive, the staff member must continue to self-isolate.

Staff who receive a negative PCR test result can usually return to work providing they are medically fit to do so. Staff who do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but have a positive PCR test result, must stay at home and self-isolate.

Staff who are contacts of someone confirmed COVID-19 positive:

• Must stay at home and self-isolate if not fully vaccinated.

• If fully vaccinated (i.e. have received two vaccine doses and are 14 days post second vaccination) should arrange a PCR test and can return to work if it is confirmed negative (if positive, isolate for 10 days). If negative, should complete daily lateral flow tests before attending work each day for 10 days and should seek a repeat PCR in the event of any positive LFD test.

It should be noted that the definition of fully vaccinated for staff may be changed in by the UKHSA to include having had a booster vaccine; therefore, NHS organisations are encouraged to make sure staff are offered a booster as soon as possible and encourage those staff who are not yet vaccinated to take up the evergreen offer.

To support colleagues and to protect our patients and services, NHS providers and primary care organisations are asked to continue to ensure that:

• 1:1 conversations continue with any member of staff or student who has not had both doses of the vaccine.

• Robust local monitoring processes are in place for regular staff and student LFD and where available, LAMP testing, with Board level assurance/organisational leadership and oversight.

• Staff (even if vaccinated) continue to carry out asymptomatic (twice weekly) LFD and where available, LAMP testing, and reporting results so that we identify and isolate cases of the virus early and help keep staff and patients safe.

• Staff report the results of their twice weekly asymptomatic tests whether positive or negative at

• COVID-19 related sickness absence is recorded correctly using the drop-down options in ESR where that is available, to ensure we develop an accurate picture.

• Staff are offered continuous learning regarding UKHSA’s IPC guidance with access to refresher education events for all staff and students including those colleagues who may not have access to traditional information cascades.

In addition to the crucial roll out of the vaccine booster programme and systematic patient and staff testing, the consistent application of IPC measures remains the most effective defence against the entry and spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings.

Lateral Flow Tests

Primary Care Optical Practices in England should use the link below to order Lateral Flow Tests:

Order coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow tests – GOV.UK (

It is important that optical practice staff test regularly in line with Government guidance:

One in three people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms but can still infect others.

Rapid tests help to check if someone has COVID-19. If people test positive and self-isolate, it helps stop the virus spreading.

Research shows rapid tests are a reliable test for COVID-19. They give a quick result and do not need to be sent to a lab.

Even if you’re vaccinated, you could still catch the virus or pass it on. Doing rapid tests helps to protect yourself and others.

When to do rapid tests:

Do rapid tests on days when you’re more likely to catch or spread COVID-19.  The recommendation for optical practice staff is every couple of days.

For example, do a test before you:

  • mix with people in crowded indoor places
  • visit someone who is at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19

Reporting your result guidance can be found here:

Further guidance and information on the COVID situation can be found here:

Children's vision screening

Following the publication of England’s COVID-19 summer 2021 guidance and the Prime Minister’s follow-up statement on 12 July you can access the optical bodies joint statement on primary eyecare services here.

You can read the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) recommendations for the vision screening backlog here

ABDO statement on optical practice in England from 5 November 2020

ABDO can officially confirm that optical practices are recognised as essential medical/health care providers and therefore do not need to close in the event of any national or local lockdown. All eye health care should continue to be delivered including routine care.

We acknowledge that due to lockdown there may be considerable reduced footfall in some areas and we are working with NHSE to agree what support, if any, can be made available to practices affected.

Please also note that ABDO supports the flexibility in relation to the GOC statement on dispensing spectacles during Covid-19 where it is absolutely necessary. In relation to dispensing to children, in line with patient safety, members should verify spectacles are fitted properly and therefore fit for purpose to aid the child’s vision as prescribed. As a consequence children should be provided with a dispensing appointment with a registrant when collecting their spectacles.

Issued 4 November 2020

Latest Advice

Standard operating procedure in Primary Care Optical settings issued 26 October.

Optometry second wave letter issued 26 October.

You can find a form to assist you in remote contact lens consultations during the red phase only here: Remote contact lens form. Red phase only.

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