Surgery boost for the double-jabbed: Health chiefs relax Covid infection guidelines so hospitals can tackle record NHS waiting lists
- Fully jabbed patients can now take a lateral flow test rather than a PCR before admission and will not have to isolate for three days beforehand
- Easing of two-metre distancing rule means managers can fit more beds on wards
- Staff can drop enhanced cleaning measures in low-risk areas, reducing the time taken to decontaminate surfaces between patients
Hospitals will be able to tackle record NHS waiting lists at a faster rate from today after health chiefs relaxed Covid infection guidelines.
Fully jabbed patients can now take a lateral flow test rather than a PCR before admission and will not have to isolate for three days beforehand.
An easing of the two-metre distancing rule to one metre also means managers can fit more beds on wards and conduct more scans and operations.
Staff can drop enhanced cleaning measures in low-risk areas, reducing the time taken to decontaminate surfaces between patients.
Hospitals will be able to tackle record NHS waiting lists at a faster rate from today after health chiefs relaxed Covid infection guidelines (file photo)
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the move is possible because of the ‘phenomenal’ success of the UK’s vaccination programme.
Yesterday another 37,960 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the UK and 40 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) review of infection rules comes as NHS waiting lists stand at a record 5.61million – almost one in every ten people in England. A separate study of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in other settings such as GP surgeries is expected to finish next month.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UKHSA, said: ‘We have reviewed the existing Covid-19 IPC evidence-based guidance and made a series of initial pragmatic recommendations… This is a first step to help the NHS treat more patients more quickly, while ensuring their safety and balancing their different needs for care.’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the move is possible because of the ‘phenomenal’ success of the UK’s vaccination programme
Mr Javid said: ‘We can now safely begin to relieve some of the most stringent infection control where they are no longer necessary to benefit patients and ease the burden on hard-working NHS staff.’
More than six million fewer patients than would usually be expected had non-urgent hospital treatment for the likes of hip and knee replacements between January 2020 and this July. The NHS postponed some operations to prioritise Covid patients and GPs made 7.5million fewer referrals.
Mr Javid has warned waiting lists could soon soar to 13million as more now start to come forward. Patient groups and hospital bosses last night welcomed the move.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘If our public health experts are clear that it is now safe to loosen some hospital precautions in this way, so that more in-patients can be treated more quickly, then this looks like a win-win so far as many older people are concerned.’
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has advised that hand hygiene is likely to be more effective than enhanced cleaning for reducing transmission via contaminated surfaces.
But last night Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, warned relaxing the measures could lead to a rise in more hospital-acquired infections.