Infection control rules in hospitals are ‘now disproportionate to the risks’ posed by covid and should be relaxed, some of the NHS’s most senior leaders have warned.
The government rules – such as not allowing covid-positive staff to work, and separating out services for covid, non-covid and covid-contact patients – make a big dent in hospital capacity and slows down services.
Glen Burley, who is chief executive of three Midlands trusts and involved in national-level discussions on elective matters, told HSJ: “Pretty much every pathway has a covid and non-covid route, which slows down flow and staff productivity.
“There is a growing argument that these rules are now disproportionate to the risks. With covid cases in the community also rising now, we may have to question again the relative risks of continuing to isolate staff.”
NHS Confederation director of policy Layla McCay told HSJ: “Healthcare leaders are concerned the current [IPC] measures are having a serious knock-on effect on capacity and that the measures in their current form are reducing efficiency and capacity within healthcare settings.
“We need more clarity on if and how current measures can be safely adjusted so [the NHS] can further increase bed capacity and patient throughput, as well as the ability to transport patients more quickly and efficiently.”
But NHS Providers, which has previously said relaxing the IPC guidance would not enable a “rapid” increase in the NHS’ capacity to tackle the elective care backlog and could pose significant “risks”, remains more cautious.
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Source: HSJ, 21 March 2022