Advice on Covid-19 for England

Withdrawal of UKHSA infection prevention and control for seasonal respiratory infection in health and care settings (including SARS-CoV-2) for winter 2021 to 2022

22 June 2022

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has stepped down its infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance for seasonal respiratory infection in health and care settings (including SARS-CoV-2) for winter 2021 to 2022. As this previously applied across the whole of the UK, this means you should revert to your Nation’s specific public health COVID-19 guidance for healthcare settings.

England

As part of the move to Green Phase, it was advised that some COVID-19 specific IPC measure can be stopped. This latest UKHSA update recommends that the following COVID-19 specific IPC measure can also be stopped:

  • Universal masking

This means asymptomatic non-clinical staff, patients and visitors are no longer required to wear a face covering when in the practice.

Optometrists and dispensing opticians should continue to wear a fluid resistant surgical face mask (FRSM) in situations set out in

  1. Performing procedures when in close proximity to the patient
  2. You consider there is a risk of respiratory infection
  3. There is a public health requirement to wear one, such as during a pandemic, unless the mask type specified by the relevant national or local public health guidance recommends an alternative specification and level of protection.

However, you may choose to continue implementing universal masking based on local COVID-19 case prevalence and/or if your practice based risk assessment deems it a necessary intervention to protect against droplet and airborne transmission and reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Where patients have symptoms of respiratory infection and require face to face eye care, then appropriate transmission-based precautions should be applied, which may include face coverings.

The following public health guidance continues to apply:

  • Regular asymptomatic lateral flow device testing, as recommended by your nation’s health system
  • Management of healthcare staff with a positive COVID-19 result or COVID-19 positive close contact, including return to work criteria

Further information: COVID-19: information and advice for health and care professionals – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The withdrawal of the UKHSA guidance does not mean a return to practice or business as it was before the pandemic. As we are in the Green Phase, you should continue to follow the GfPP, which has been updated to incorporate the good practices established over the past two years; the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual (NIPCM) and the COVID-19 specific IPC guidance for your nation.

COVID-19 continues to be a serious disease with new variants, and new waves are predicted to continue in the future. This means it is important to maintain high standards of IPC, including good hand hygiene, decontaminating equipment after use or contact with a patient and keeping up to date with the recommended immunisations.

Updated Public Health Guidance for IPC - 1 June 2022

Read updated Public Health Guidance for IPC in England here.

Living with COVID 19 testing update 30 March 2022

Free LFD testing will continue for frontline health and social care staff. ABDO alongside AOP and FODO colleagues ensured that optical primary care continued to receive this support in line with keeping the profession and patients safe, as we learn to live with the continued threat of COVID. Please see the NHS England and NHS Improvement Living with COVID-19 testing update for full details regarding LFD testing.

A new platform also now replaces the previous PPE portal.  Free access to PPE is in place until March 2023. Find out more here.

 

England COVID Update - 25 February 2022

Following the update we circulated on Wednesday 23 February please see the letter from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE/I) for your information which gives an update on the Living with COVID-19 white paper.

We are continuing discussions with NHSE/I, the College of Optometrists (CoO) and the Health Security Agency in line with progressing to the green phase and will communicate again once finalised.

Read letter here.

Removal of COVID-19 domestic restrictions in England

Please see our joint statement with the College of Optometrists (CoO) following the Prime Minister’s announcement this week, on removing all remaining COVID-19 legal restrictions from tomorrow, Thursday 24 February. This is distinct from the UK wide Infection Prevention and Control guidance for health and care settings, which should continue to be followed.

Self-isolation requirements and return to work criteria for health and care staff in England currently still apply and NHSE have confirmed they will be writing to contractors to confirm this in the coming days.

Optometry practices and staff should continue to follow the College’s Amber guidance and FAQs to maintain high standards of infection control to keep staff and patients safe from the continued risk of COVID albeit reduced risk.

We are in contact with NHS England and the Health Security Agency to determine when any planned changes to self-isolation requirements and asymptomatic testing for primary care settings in England, including optometry practices and staff, will be published. We are also developing guidance to transition to the Green phase as we learn to live with COVID-19, and will continue to keep members updated of any future changes to our COVID-19 guidance.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to our COVID-19 guidance, please contact the CoO clinical advice service or policy@abdo.org.uk .

Updated 23 February 2022.

COVID-19 Guidance updated 26 January 2022

Please note that this page is a live document and all information and links are accurate as of the date of publication.

ABDO strongly recommends all registrants should follow Government guidance on vaccination in line with public health evidence.

Mandatory vaccination only applies to staff regulated by the Care Quality Commission.  It does not apply to staff regulated by the GOC.

Since 11 November 2021, anyone working or volunteering in a care home in England needs to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19), unless they are exempt.

Recent and upcoming changes can be found here. The left-hand side column lists each country.

Please see the updated summary of changes made to guidance up to 26 January 2022:

England

If you test positive on an LFD test, you are not required to complete a confirmatory PCR test, but you should follow the guidance as set out in the FAQs.

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you can leave self-isolation after 7 full days, provided you have no symptoms and have two negative LFD tests 24 hours apart on days 6 and 7.

If you are identified as a close contact of a positive case you should complete the relevant COVID-19 test according to the national guidance.

Close contacts of confirmed cases, who are fully vaccinated, have a negative LFD test and no symptoms, can return to work and must complete and receive a negative LFD test result for seven days from return.

Find out more here.

 

Self-isolation support

You may be able to get a payment of £500 if you are on a low income and meet the eligibility criteria:

  • you’re employed or self-employed.
  • you, or a child you’re the parent or guardian of, has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), or been told you or the child are a close contact by NHS Test and Trace.
  • you cannot work from home and will lose income by self-isolating or staying at home to care for the child.
  • you’re not exempt from self-isolating.

Apply for a Test and Trace Support Payment – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

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 www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result.

• 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 (www.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: www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result

Further guidance and information on the COVID situation can be found here: www.abdo.org.uk/coronavirus/

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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