Dr Simon Festing, Chief Executive Officer of the British Healthcare Trades Association image
Dr Simon Festing, Chief Executive Officer of the British Healthcare Trades Association

The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has called on the government to extend the NHS self-isolation exemption in England to eligible workers in the health and care industry amid concerns over staff shortages, including those that provide assistive technology services.

It follows a week that saw over 500,000 individuals being told to self-isolate after being pinged by the COVID-19 app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Dubbed the ‘pingdemic’, the significant rise in numbers of employees self-isolating has resulted in staff shortages, impacting a wide array of sectors, including health and social care.

In response, the government announced that from the 19th of July, double vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff in England who have been told to self-isolate will be permitted to attend work if they are able to meet a number of conditions.

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These conditions include having a negative PCR test, taking daily negative lateral flow tests for a minimum of seven days, and up to 10 days or completion of the identified self-isolation period.

According to the government, the measure has been introduced to “alleviate pressure on NHS and social care services” and is being considered on a “case-by-case basis, and only after a risk assessment by the organisation’s management.”

In particular, the government has stated it “is clear the change applies only to frontline NHS and social care staff where their absence may lead to a significant risk of harm.”

Although not deemed “frontline NHS staff”, BHTA member companies play a central role in the health and social care sector, providing safe access to vital equipment and services. Often, these services and equipment are provided on behalf of the NHS and local authorities, or help to significantly reduce the burden on these organisations by providing an alternative route to those in need.

The BHTA is now calling for these measures to be extended to include all eligible staff from its member companies.

Dr Simon Festing, Chief Executive Officer of the British Healthcare Trades Association, commented: “Our members play an integral role in the provision of vital health and care services across the country; however, many are impacted by the ongoing ‘pingdemic’ crisis.

“Staff shortages may adversely affect important equipment services, from the provision of wheelchairs necessary for users’ mobility, to the delivery of essential independent living aids required for patient discharge from hospitals.

“Following the government’s announcement that frontline NHS staff are not required to self-isolate if they are double jabbed and take the correct precautions, we would urge the government to extend this exemption to companies providing services on behalf of the NHS.

“Throughout the pandemic, our members have proven they are quick to adapt to fast-evolving challenges, keeping their employees and service users safe, while also continuing to provide their essential services.

“As England now reopens and all restrictions are lifted, our members should be given the opportunity to manage this latest challenge to ensure the ongoing provision of health and care for all.”

The BHTA recently bolstered its team with two new appointments, who will help drive policy agenda and brand awareness.

William Lee is the association’s new Policy and Parliamentary Executive, who will support the development and dissemination of policy, parliamentary and technical work for the association and its members. He will also further the BHTA’s influencing work through relevant Westminster and Whitehall activity, plus devolved nations, and wider stakeholder engagement.

Samantha Lewis joins the BHTA as its new Marketing Campaign Manager. In her new role, she will execute campaigns that will educate and engage audiences about the BHTA, its Code of Practice, and its members. Working with the BHTA’s media subsidiary, BHTA Engage, and its network of partners and members, Sam will help raise the profile of the association across a variety of offline and online channels.

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