Medical bodies criticise easing of Covid restrictions

Ensuring safety for practitioners, their teams and patients is a priority for pressure groups in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial announcement to abandon pandemic protection measures. 

Responding to his statement yesterday on the Government’s ‘Living with Covid’ strategy, which includes the removal of free Covid-19 tests for the public from 1 April in England, BMA Council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned that the policy failed to protect those at highest risk of harm from the virus.

He called it ‘premature’ to remove all protective measures while cases, deaths and the number of people seriously ill remained so high.

And he said it would create a two-tier system between those who could afford to pay for testing and to self-isolate, while others would be forced to gamble on the health of themselves and others.

The Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) is now calling for updated safety guidance. 

A spokesman told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘Following the Government’s decision to relax covid rules, we would welcome updated infection prevention control guidance for all healthcare settings to ensure that both patients and practitioners are kept as safe as possible. 

‘IHPN will continue working with colleagues in both the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England to ensure independent providers are fully factored into any changes around testing, PPE and other Covid measures.’

The Government was urged by NHS leaders to reconsider its plan and provide dedicated funding for continued access to Covid tests from April for all NHS workers in patient-facing roles.

NHS Confederation boss Matthew Taylor said: ‘Patients, staff and visitors deserve to feel confident that they can access and work in services without risking their own health or causing worry to those around them. This is particularly true for people from clinically vulnerable groups who may already feel side-lined.’

The BMA meanwhile is seeking urgent clarity around testing provision for NHS workers. It said people visited hospitals and surgeries to get better, not to be exposed to deadly viruses.

Continued testing for healthcare workers would be invaluable in protecting both staff and patients, it said.