NHS staff can stay in NHS-reimbursed hotels to enable them to continue to work and avoid the national 14-day household isolation policy, NHS England has announced today.

New operational guidance issued this afternoon said this measure would be introduced on “an entirely voluntary basis”. This work is being coordinated by Sarah-Jane Marsh, chief executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Foundation Trust.

In the new guidance, sent to all NHS organisations, NHSE also said, as extra coronavirus testing comes online, it is asking Public Health England as a matter of urgency to establish NHS targeted testing for symptomatic staff, who would otherwise need to self-isolate for seven days.

The letter indicated other aspects of newly tightened guidance on isolation and social distancing — announced last night by the prime minister — will not apply in the same way to NHS staff.

It follows serious concern from some NHS leaders that the Public Health England guidance was leading to services suffering major staff losses, where this may be avoidable.

Former NHSE chief executive Sir David Nicholson said this morning: “Yesterday’s announcements were a disaster, they may have been the right thing to do but being briefed half an hour before or seeing it on the news is not cross govt working. Get a grip.” HSJ has heard concerns from multiple senior trust leaders about the issue, and understands they were shared at senior levels in NHSE.

In the new letter, NHSE asked NHS organisations to “make adjustments” for staff members at increased risk according to new guidance on isolation, which includes pregnant women.

“Adjustments may include working remotely or moving to a lower risk area,” NHSE said.

The national commissioner added staff who are otherwise healthy but were required by guidance not to come to work should be supported by NHS organisations to use telephone or digital consultations.

NHSE also said the professional regulators have written to clinicians who have relinquished their licence to practice within the past three years to ask if they would be willing to return.

Other staffing measures set out in the letter include:

  • Urgent work led by chief nursing officer Ruth May, NHS chief people officer Prerana Issar, Health Education England, the relevant regulators and universities to deploy medical and nursing students, and clinical academics; 
  • Nurses, midwives and allied health professionals currently in non-patient facing roles will be asked to support direct clinical practice in the NHS in the next few weeks, following appropriate local induction and support; and
  • Clinically qualified staff at NHSE/I are now being redeployed to frontline clinical practice.


Covid-19 staff rules relaxed after ‘disaster’ concern