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RCN calls for protection of nursing staff as PM announces end to COVID-19 restrictions in England

21 Feb 2022

Announcement is a missed opportunity to reassure health care staff about testing and contingency plans.

A female nurse wearing a face mask looks concerned The government today (21 February) announced plans to end COVID-19 restrictions in England. People testing positive for the virus will no longer be legally required to isolate from this Thursday, while free COVID-19 testing for the public will end on 1 April. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over for health care staff. The RCN is calling for nursing staff to have continued access to free tests to keep their colleagues and patients safe. It is also calling for the publication of evidence for the decision, and assurances that a robust plan is in place should the number of COVID-19 cases increase again. 

Last week the RCN said the government was "passing the buck" to nursing staff and employers to decide whether staff with COVID-19 will have to go to work. It also said that the government is leaving the way open to increased infection rates and yet more pressure on an already overworked and understaffed NHS. 

RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said: “This move feels unplanned and ill-informed. The Prime Minster had the opportunity to reassure health care staff in England they still have access to tests, and they will be alarmed today by this omission. 

“Nursing staff remain on the frontline of protecting the most vulnerable in society and extra vigilance is needed for all those working in health and care returning to work after a positive result and a period absent. 

“Nursing staff know the reality of living with COVID-19 and will want to see the evidence for this decision. They need to be assured there are robust plans in place should the number of cases increase again, or a new variant emerges.”

Page last updated - 21/02/2022