Updated Covid Guidance for Care Homes & Testing Programme for Social Care

Please see the revised Covid guidance for adult and older people’s care homes and changes to the testing programme for social care.  Please note that these documents contain links to other relevant and associated information.

Covid 19 – Update to Scotland’s strategic framework

The First Minister this week announced a new staged approach to easing protective measures and recovering from the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  In her statement, she confirmed the details of the updated Strategic Framework to manage COVID-19 primarily through public health advice, vaccination, and treatment rather than legal restrictions and set out an indicative timescale for remaining legal protections to be lifted. 

Key points are:

  • Vaccine certification will no longer be legally required from Monday 28 February, although the app will remain available so any business that wishes to continue certification on a voluntary basis to reassure customers will be able to do so.
  • Current legal requirements on the use of face coverings, the collection of customer details for contact tracing purposes, and for businesses, service providers and places of worship to have regard to guidance on Covid and to take reasonably practicable measures set out in the guidance are expected to be lifted on 21 March, subject to the state of the pandemic.
  • Access to lateral flow and PCR tests will continue to be free of charge, ahead of a detailed transition plan being published on the future of Scotland’s test and protect programme in March.
  • People who test positive for COVID-19 will continue to be asked to self-isolate to reduce the risk of infecting other people. Any changes to the recommended period of self-isolation will be considered on an ongoing basis.

Full details of the announcement are here:  https://www.gov.scot/news/living-safely-with-covid/  And a copy of the updated Strategic Framework is here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-scotlands-strategic-framework-update-february-2022/


The Workforce Issues Group will be discussing this at its next meeting on Friday 4th March so if you have any views or comments that you would like us to feed into that please drop me a line.

Covid 19 – Second boosters for at-risk groups

The arrangements for second boosters to be delivered to at-risk groups has been announced – details here: https://www.gov.scot/news/second-boosters-for-at-risk-groups/

National Care Service Consultation – Responses published

The Scottish Government has published the responses to the National Care Service consultation.  You can read them here: https://www.gov.scot/news/national-care-service-consultation-responses-published/

Distance Aware

The Distance Aware initiative was formally launched in Scotland on Wednesday 26 January. Additional information on the launch is provided below, along with a stakeholder pack. The Scottish Government requests support in promoting and raising awareness of the scheme.

The Scottish Government has worked with the Bevan Commission to adopt the Distance Aware scheme and adapt it for Scotland.  The initiative is designed to support people in adapting to live with the Covid virus in ways that are less restrictive and can help overcome anxiety and help to build confidence about returning to public settings as and when they re-open.

The initiative enables individuals (and organisations if they wish) to politely prompt ongoing distancing and respect of individual social space. The scheme is symbolised by a shield with arrows indicating the desired space. The shield icon is worn as a badge or lanyard to allow individuals to indicate that they would like to have space around them.

User research carried out by the Scottish Government last summer showed that nearly a quarter (24%) of the people on the Highest Risk List surveyed said they had not met people outdoors who were not part of their household; 50% said they had not met others indoors; and that 73% of those who were expecting to return to work felt uncomfortable about the prospect.

The scheme is completely voluntary and is available to anyone who needs it for any reason, to make sure everyone benefits as restrictions are eased and we return to a more normal way of life.  This will be a big step or change for some for many reasons, and it is hoped that this will make more people confident and comfortable in public places and work.  It also provides an opportunity to discuss with staff, customers or members what living with the virus and returning to a more normal way of life means for everyone, and how we can do this in consideration of those who find it harder to adapt.

To ensure success of the scheme the Scottish Government is asking businesses and representative organisations to help raise awareness of the Distance Aware symbol with staff, customers and members.  

The attached stakeholder pack provides information on Distance Aware, and includes suggestions on ways in which business and organisations can participate in the scheme, and offers resources to support them with this.  

CMO Letter

Please note that the Chief Medical Officer has written to everyone on the highest risk list to provide an update following the recent easing of protective measures, and to highlight the Distance Aware scheme.  

The CMO letter also provides information on priority access to PCR tests, updated information around lateral flow tests, sources of mental health support, and advice for those who may be considering a change in employment. 

Covid Office Guidance inc Hybrid Working

The Covid guidance on office working has been revised and updated with guidance on hybrid working.  You can read the revised guidance here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-offices/

Covid updates

Covid – Advice for people at highest risk

The Covid guidance for those at highest risk has been updated – the updated document can be accessed here: 

https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-highest-risk/

State of the epidemic

The current ‘state of the epidemic’ document outlining the progress of the virus can be found here:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-state-epidemic-14-january-2022/

Life after lockdown: how do we best recover from the pandemic? 

An interesting article on the impact of and how we best recover from the pandemic:https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/16/life-after-lockdown-how-do-we-best-recover-from-the-pandemic?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Updated self-isolation exemption guidance for health and social care staff. 

The Scottish Government has updated the self-isolation exemption guidance for health and social care staff. The revised guidance can be found here: https://www.sehd.scot.nhs.uk/details.asp?PublicationID=7514  We understand that an accompanying flowchart and FAQ document are to following the coming days.

The guidance removes the need for fully vaccinated staff, identified as contacts to PCR test prior to returning to work. They should take an LFD test instead. If the LFD test is negative and provided they don’t have a fever or other symptoms staff can continue to work following a risk assessment by their line manager. They should also continue to take an LFD test every day for a 10 day period.

The guidance also clarifies that staff that test positive should pause their workplace LFD testing for 28 days (from day 1 of symptom onset or asymptomatic test date). If they are also required to PCR test weekly, they should also pause this for a period of 90 days.  Please also note that the guidance highlights that the likelihood of a positive LFD test in the absence of a high temperature after 10 days is low, so further testing is not advised, unless they have renewed symptoms.

First Minister’s Covid update

Happy new year!

Firstly, we hope you all managed to avoid Covid and get a bit of rest over the festive period.  Here’s hoping the year ahead sees all our members getting the reward and recognition they deserve.

First Minister’s Covid update

We learned a number of things from the First Minister’s Covid update on Wednesday including:

  • 1 in 20 of us now have the virus
  • The number of people in hospital with COVID increased from 679 to 1,223 in the last week. That’s a rise of 80% and is putting significant additional pressure on the NHS.
  • No new protective measures were announced but there were a number of changes the requirements relating to self-isolation and testing (detailed below).
  • For those who have symptoms of COVID, the advice remains to book a PCR test, even if you have a positive lateral flow test.
  • The advice for everyone remains to test regularly with lateral flow devices, especially before meeting up with others.
  • Existing restrictions on large gatherings, the requirement for distancing between groups of people in public indoor places and for table service in hospitality venues serving alcohol on the premises will remain in force for now and, anticipated, until 17th January.
  • While it is not a legal requirement, the general public are strongly advised to limit contact with people in other households as far as possible, and to limit the number of households in any indoor gathering that does take place to a maximum of three.

Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-statement-5-january-2022 

Self Isolation and Testing Changes

  • The first change to self isolation applies to those who test positive for COVID.  While the initial advice when someone tests positive will still be to self-isolate for 10 days, there will now be an option to end isolation after seven days as long as you, firstly, have no fever and, secondly, you record two negative lateral flow tests, one no earlier than day six after testing positive and another at least 24 hours after that.
  • The second change applies to close contacts of positive cases – and this includes household contacts – who are either under the age of 18 years, four months, or who are older than that and fully vaccinated.  [Fully vaccinated = those who have had first, second and booster/third doses].  For close contacts in these categories the requirement to self-isolate will end and be replaced by a requirement to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days. Obviously, if one of these tests is positive, self-isolation will then be required.  Anyone identified as a close contact who is over 18 years and four months and not fully vaccinated will still be asked to self-isolate for 10 days and to take a PCR test.
  • From today, if your lateral flow test is positive, and you do not have symptoms, you will no longer be required to take a PCR test to confirm the result.
  • Instead, you must immediately isolate and also report your result online so that Test & Protect can commence the contact tracing process and give you advice as quickly as possible. You will also receive an online form that you must fill in, as would happen with a PCR positive in to ensure your contacts are notified.

Updated Schools Guidance 

The school’s guidance has been updated and can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-reducing-the-risks-in-schools/pages/overview/  

The key changes are:

  • Updates to the self-isolation sections, to reflect the updated policy that will apply across wider society from today. There is also a Q&A attached which has been prepared by Test and Protect to answer any questions that may understandably arise given the changes being introduced. Please note that these changes mean the critical workers exemption policy that was recently introduced no longer applies; and
  • Updates to the vaccination section, to reflect the latest JCVI advice.
  • There is also a minor update to the section on outbreak management, to reflect the ongoing practice by local HPTs of prioritising engagement with higher risk settings where cases are very high (this can in practice sometimes mean, for example, that IMTs are not held for every school outbreak, with alternative handling arrangements agreed between HPTs, LAs and schools).

Note that all secondary school children are being asked to take a lateral flow test on the night before or morning of their first day back, and thereafter to test twice a week and also in advance of mixing socially with people from other households.  And the staff in all educational and early years settings should take a lateral flow test just before starting back at work, and in line with broader advice after that.

Further information on the changes and links to where you can get LFT tests can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/news/self-isolation-and-testing-changes/

Specific Guidance for Social Care Staff

See the updated Policy Framework to the self-isolation guidance for Health and Social Care Staff which apply from today.

We have been advised that the revised policy document sets out the conditions which will enable Health and Social Care staff who are COVID-19 index cases (confirmed as positive cases), or contacts of a positive COVID-19 case to exit isolation early in line with updated guidance for the general population. As their roles provide care and support to individuals who are often more vulnerable and at higher risk of COVID-19 infection, there will continue to be additional safeguards in place for health and social care workers including testing regimes, Infection Prevention and Control and personal protective equipment.

An additional information document for frequently asked questions for health and social care staff will be published next week and updating relevant web pages will ensure information is up to date in response to the Omicron variant. 

Funding allocation for local authorities

Details have now been published of how the Scottish Government funding for 2022/23 will be distributed to local authorities – you can see your local authority’s allocation here: https://www.gov.scot/news/funding-of-gbp-12-5-billion-for-local-councils 

Temporary change to fit note UK requirements

The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/1453/made) came into force on 17 December 2021 and modified the existing regulations. The UK Government guidance about this change explains that “these changes are to give GP’s more time to work on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) booster programme”.

As a result of this modification, employees are not required to provide a fit note for the first 28 days of any spell of incapacity for work. This means self-certification for illness-related time off work (sick leave) has been extended from 7 days to 28 days.

As UK law takes precedence over a requirement in a collective agreement, employment contract or employer policy the effect of this is that the relevant provisions in our national agreements cannot be applied for the duration these regulations remain in force.

• In the SJC agreement the relevant paragraph is: 10.1.2 (iii).

• The Chief Officials agreement simply states that statutory notification requirements must be met and so does not contradict the new regulations.

Where terms and conditions, contracts, or policies state that a fit note is required after 7 days of absence the temporary requirement is now after 28 days.

The regulations are due to expire on 26 January 2022. The SJC will continue to monitor this and update national agreements as required.

More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-fit-note-a-guide-for-patients-and-employees

Where’s the righteous anger?

In case you missed it over the holidays you might be interested in this article by Brian Wilson on the state of local government funding:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/nicola-sturgeons-cuts-to-councils-are-like-margaret-thatchers-in-the-1980s-where-is-the-righteous-anger-brian-wilson-3511785