Minimum COVID-19 isolation cut to five days in potential boost for GP workforce

The minimum period of isolation after a positive COVID-19 test will be cut to five days from Monday 17 January in a move that could ease the NHS workforce crisis, the government has said.

Hand squeezing liquid from dropper onto lateral flow device cassette
Lateral flow tests: minimum isolation cut (Photo: George Clerk/Getty Images)

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons on 13 January that the government had reviewed the isolation period for positive cases.

'UK Health Security Agency data shows around two thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five,' he said. 'We want to use the testing capacity we have built up to help them leave isolation safely.'

He said the government had decided to reduce the minimum self isolation period in England to five days - a month after a reduction from a minimum of 10 to seven days. People who return two negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart will now be able to leave isolation from the start of day six.

NHS workforce

Responding to the announcement, shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting said: 'Workforce shortages are one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS and the wider economy. This measure will help people get back to work faster and safer.'

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor backed the change as a 'pragmatic move' that could ease pressure on the health and care workforce.

The changes come at a time when GP leaders have warned that the general practice workforce has been 'shredded' by absences linked to COVID-19. The RCGP warned just after Christmas that a shapshot poll it carried out had found 95% of practices warning that levels of staff off sick were worse than usual. The college poll found that around 14% of clinical staff and 17% of all staff were off sick. 

Mr Taylor said: 'We called for consideration to be given to reducing the self-isolation period in England as one way of alleviating the NHS staffing crisis if it could be backed by the appropriate evidence and so, we are glad the government has acted quickly.

COVID-19 impact

'This is a pragmatic move which leaders will welcome if it can mean more health and care workers who are well enough can return to the frontline, providing it does not significantly add to the risk of the virus spreading.

'The number of people in hospital is still high, with admissions still rising in the North of England and alongside that, the NHS faces a huge care backlog and significant vacancies. Leaders are grateful for the military support that has been made available to help deliver hospital services as well as the three-month agreement with the independent sector but we are certainly not out of the woods yet.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

NHS logo on tiled wall

Draft NICE guidance on self-harm updates advice for GPs

Draft NICE guidance calls for patients to receive urgent psychosocial assessment...

GP looking tired

'Running on empty': one in four GPs warn extreme tiredness is affecting patient care

A quarter of GPs say they are regularly sleep deprived at work, while the same proportion...

Syringe extracting COVID-19 vaccine from vial

Thousands of unvaccinated GP staff face dismissal notice from February

Thousands of unvaccinated staff at GP practices could be handed their notice from...

MDU chief executive Dr Matthew Lee

Viewpoint: Tired and overworked GPs need better support

A recent survey has shown that many GPs are burnt out and exhausted. Urgent action...

Pins marking points on a map

Map: Which parts of England have the fastest-rising demand for GP appointments?

GP practices faced a massive increase in workload through 2021 as demand for appointments...

Sign pointing to entrance of COVID-19 vaccination hub

GPs partners subsidising COVID-19 vaccine campaign as bookings drop, GPs warn

GP practices running COVID-19 vaccine clinics may soon be forced to 'chuck in the...