Practices told to update risk assessments for vulnerable staff before shielding ends

GP practices have been told to undertake new risk assessments for any members of staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable ahead of shielding coming to an end on 1 April.

Shielding ends on 1 April (Photo: Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images)
Shielding ends on 1 April (Photo: Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images)

A letter from NHS England said that the new risk assessments should set out a plan to enable staff members to return to work safely.

The advice from 1 April is that where possible extremely clinically vulnerable people should continue to work from home.

However the letter said that for those who cannot work from home, employers should 'undertake a comprehensive, individual, workplace risk assessment reflecting the current working context'. This assessment should include factors such as whether the member of staff has been vaccinated, improvements in testing and how likely they are to come into contact with possible cases of COVID-19.

Shielded patient list

The letter, from NHS chief people officer Prerana Issar and NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani, said 'many staff may still be concerned about their risk of exposure to COVID-19 if they return to work' and encouraged practices to undertake 'sensitive and understanding' conversations with staff.

They added that 'emerging evidence' may inform future guidance for employers around clinically extremely vulnerable. This could include specific advice relating to staff who have not been vaccinated, or those 'who have a health condition that is associated with a weaker level of protection after vaccination', the letter suggested.

Guidance accompanying the letter suggested that practices should continue to encourage staff who have not been vaccinated to come forward for vaccination. It said risk assessments provided 'a safe space for staff to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine', adding that employers should ensure staff who have not been vaccinated are fully informed of any new evidence relating to the impact of the vaccine.

Updated advice

The guidance also said practices should ensure that there are regular 'check-ins' with staff returning to work, which 'should include psychological support at what may be a challenging time for colleagues'.

Last week the government said that around than nine in 10 clinically extremely vulnerable patients have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

However official advice continues to recommed that these people still continue to follow additional precautions 'to keep themselves as protected as possible' after shielding ends on 1 April, such as working from home, minimising social interaction and following social distancing measures.

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