• Employers may need to redeploy NHS staff at highest risk of covid-19
  • Organisations also warned not to assume which staff members may be at risk
  • Guidance is first attempt at risk reduction framework based on evidence available

NHS staff who are deemed vulnerable to covid-19 may need to be redeployed, a new risk reduction framework backed by NHS England tells employers.

The guidance, produced by a group of nine clinicians and academics, says: “Employers will need to take into considerations local circumstances and other structural factors… this may include redeployment of those deemed at highest risk of adverse outcomes, such as redeployment to lower risk environments.”

Where this may not be possible within an organisation, employers should consider redeploying staff “across the health system”.

The document was published by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine but has been endorsed by NHS England and NHS Improvement’s chief people officer Prerana Issar. 

It also warned employers not to necessarily assume staff, “even with identified vulnerabilities, working in areas with the highest concentration of covid-19 patients”, will be at the greatest risk. This included intensive care units.

The document explained that risk of exposure also depended on how well various measures were implemented, such as necessary training, fit-testing and appropriate use of personal protective equipment.

FOM president Anne de Bono, who co-authored the guidance, said this was the first attempt at a risk reduction framework based on the evidence available.

The framework said: “It should not necessarily be assumed that staff, even with identified vulnerabilities, working in areas with the highest concentration of covid-19 patients, such as intensive care units, will be at the greatest risk.

“This depends upon the extent to which the risk of exposure is controlled by the measures above, including appropriate personal protective equipment,” it added.

The guidance also includes a risk assessment framework, designed to help managers make judgements of workplace and personnel factors which should be “considered as part of risk management and reduction”.

It asks for four factors to be considered in an individual assessment: age, sex, underlying health conditions and ethnicity. Ethnicity was not included in previous risk assessments; however, it has been included in this version, according to Ms Issar.

It comes as HSJ revealed the NHS could face a set of wide-ranging targets as part of a comprehensive plan to mitigate the impact of covid-19 on its staff, including black, Asian and minority ethnic workers.