The end of shielding

 Nicky Hughes 31 Jul 2020

Nicky Hughes, Associate Director of Nursing (Employment Relations), shares some of the topics being discussed with the Welsh government and NHS employers this week.

RCN Wales and the other trade unions continue to work closely with the Welsh government and NHS employers on key issues that relate to your employment, both in the NHS and other care sectors.

As you know, we have jointly produced a set of COVID-19 FAQs for NHS managers and staff. These are constantly updated to reflect the ever-changing situation. Although these haven’t been accepted within the independent sector, our basis for discussion when supporting members would mirror this advice.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton has confirmed that people in Wales who are shielding will no longer need to do so after 16 August. It must be an anxious time for those of you who have diligently self-isolated and followed the rules, to be told you will be able to go back to work and integrate with colleagues, the public and patients. RCN Wales has discussed with NHS employers and the Welsh government the concerns over staff returning to work and called for a compassionate approach, where individual circumstances are considered.

The Welsh government has agreed to update the COVID-19 risk assessment to incorporate those who have been shielding, and it is likely that the experts will deem anyone who has been shielding as high risk. This means that non patient-facing roles or working from home where possible would need to be considered. Following concerns raised by RCN Wales about time pressures, the Welsh government is aiming to get the new assessment out this week.

RCN Wales has also called for an induction and short phased return to ensure that those staff returning to work are physically and emotionally supported. If you have any concerns about returning to work and your health, you can ask to be referred to your organisation’s occupational health department. 

We are awaiting a response from the Welsh government and NHS employers to our query regarding whether the same concessions will be taken with those staff who have been shielding others. I will update you when we have received that information.

The RCN is always here to help our members, so if you feel you have not had an appropriate risk assessment or that the plans for your return are not appropriate – tell us! We will be able to provide you with support and information. Contact the team at RCN Direct.

We don’t know what the future holds and you may be asked to shield in the future due to local lockdowns. However, a precedent has now been set around how that should be managed and how nurses and carers should be supported.

I hope you enjoy reading my weekly blogs as much as I enjoy writing them – and taking the opportunity to reflect on what has happened during the week! I’ll be on leave for two weeks now so will catch up with you when I return. In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear your experiences of returning to work after shielding, whether the risk assessment process worked for you and if you felt your return to work plan was appropriate. Please tweet me – @nichughes1 – or email Communications.Wales@rcn.org.uk

Take care, be kind to yourself and make time to adjust to the ever-changing world!

Nicky Hughes

Associate Director of Nursing (Employment Relations) RCN Wales

Nicky has 30 years experience of working in the NHS in the specialities of inpatient acute medicine and the community setting, where she managed frontline services such as District Nursing, Prison Nursing, and those caring for the homeless and asylum seekers. In addition she commissioned care from the nursing home sector.

Page last updated - 31/07/2020