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23 December 2021

NCHA member alert - Covid update – 23 December

In this covid update:

Period of self-isolation following Covid exposure in England

The Health Secretary has announced that the required period for self-isolation following a Covid exposure in England is now seven rather than 10 days (subject to negative lateral flow results on days six and seven). UKHSA has now confirmed that this guidance also applies to healthcare workers. However, when going back into a work setting, healthcare workers are asked to continue testing on days 8, 9 and 10 (see section 2.2 of updated UKHSA guidance issued yesterday).

Infection prevention and control measures - reminder

NHSEI has asked all the primary care professions to remind contractors and practitioners of the continuing need for vigilance in rigorously applying IPC measures. These have not changed with the advent of Omicron and should be equally effective irrespective of the variant.

SSP rebate scheme

The government has reintroduced the Covid Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, under which businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be reimbursed SSP for Covid-related absences. The reimbursement is for up to two weeks per employee. SMEs can make claims from now and retrospectively from mid-January.

Staff sickness self-certification

The Department for Work & Pensions has temporarily extended the period under which employees can self-certify for sick absence from seven to 28 days until 26 January 2022. This is to relieve pressure on GPs implementing the higher priorities of vaccination and booster programmes.

Workforce (and other) pressures

Most primary hearing care staff will by now be fully vaccinated (including with a booster vaccine). Vaccination, along with robust IPC measures such as social distancing, PPE and hand and cough/sneeze hygiene, should help protect team members and patients throughout the winter. However, if infection rates or exposure continue to increase, staff shortages may be hard to avoid.
In terms of workforce planning, SAGE data show that as well as high transmission levels associated with mixing outside the home, there is a nearly three-fold increased risk of transmission in households with Omicron infection. UKHSA data also show that secondary attack rates for household and non-household contacts appear to be around twice as high for Omicron as Delta.
The NCHA is in regular contact with the Department of Health and NHSEI about pressures on primary care audiology services, including workforce. So, please inform us of any difficulties, and we will ensure they are highlighted. Doing so will also enable us to present an overarching picture of what is happening to services across the sector during the Omicron wave.

NCHA opening times - reminder

The office will be closed from 23 December to 4 January, but members can still reach us for support and advice by emailing  [email protected].


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