A leader of the NHS said today that he will support reducing self-isolation down to 5 days in a situation where there is a severe staff shortage, leaving hospitals no choice but to end their operations. 

Matthew Taylor, the head of the NHS Confederation that represents trusts, suggested two days more should be added to the time frame, as long as science supports it.

On BBC Radio 4’s Today program, he stated that the current situation was dire and that it was important to get staff back on track.

However, he stated that having infected employees return to their wards would prove to be counterproductive as they will spread the disease to others.

Last month, ministers ordered self-isolation to be reduced by seven days for anyone who tested negative for the virus with a lateral flow.

They are being urged to emulate the US. Patients have been allowed to remain isolated for five days, and then they can be required to wear masks the following five.

In the midst of a staffing shortage in the NHS 17 Greater Manchester hospitals yesterday had to postpone some procedures and appointments.

A spokesperson for the hospital said that up to 15% of the staff have been affected by the virus. This is despite the fact that the number of Covid-infected patients in the wards has doubled in the past week.

Gillian Keegan (Health Minister) warned that the NHS is facing one of the worst ‘pressurized winters’ because of the staffing crisis.

However, she was kind enough to praise doctors and nurses for their “amazing work” despite spiralling pressures. 

Yesterday, some ambulance trusts asked patients suffering from heart attacks to “get a lift” to the hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance. 

Matthew Taylor, head of the NHS Confederation, said he would back a reduction in self-isolation to five days providing it is backed up by the science

Health minister Gillian Keegan said the NHS faced one of its 'most pressurised' winters yet

Matthew Taylor of the NHS Confederation said that he supported reducing self-isolation down to five days if the science supports it. Gillian Keegan (Health minister) said that the NHS had experienced one of its most stressful winters.

At least half a dozen trusts across England have declared 'critical incidents' indicating that they may be unable to deliver vital care to patients in the coming weeks because so many medics are off isolating

More than half of the trusts in England have issued ‘critical incident’ declarations, which indicate that they are likely to be unable or unwilling to care for critical patients within the coming weeks. This is because many medical staff are away from Isolating.

If Taylor was asked whether he supported such a change in self-isolation rules he replied BBC Radio 4: “As long it’s based on science. Because on one hand, we need to make sure that staff get back to work as quickly as possible.

‘Hospitals who have declared critical incidents, for example, are essentially reaching out to staff who are on leave, on rest days or even recently retired and asking them to come back to wards, so the situation is desperate — any way of getting staff back into hospital is a good thing.

Minister says it’s unacceptable to tell heart attack victims to GET A LIFT

Gillian Keegan, Health Minister of England said that she had asked NHS England for an investigation into claims that family members or friends are asked to transport stroke victims to hospitals by one trust ambulance because they feel overworked.

According to the Health Service Journal, this advice was given at North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

Sky News’ Ms Keegan said that this isn’t what she had put into place.

‘We have more ambulance crews in operation than we have ever had, we also gave £55million extra just for this period to cover staff and make sure we had increases in staff and staffing levels.

‘I’ve actually asked NHS England to look at that particular case because that doesn’t sound to me like that’s an acceptable approach — people should be able to get an ambulance if they have a heart attack and that’s why we’ve put that extra funding in place, and why we’ve been building up our ambulance service over the last couple of years.’

Ms Keegan explained that the critical incidents, which were caused by NHS trusts due to increasing Covid admissions, are a ‘part’ of the local contingency plan which “happens every winter”, adding, “We know they are going under extreme pressure, we are aware of that.” 

‘But on the other hand, if staff come back into hospital and are infectious, that’s completely counterproductive because that is going to mean more sickness in the hospital and for staff, so this can’t be led by politics or blind hope — it has to be led by the science.

“If science shows that it’s possible to return to work sooner, then the NHS leadership will desire this to happen.”

He recommended that those in quarantine should test their own health on the days of three, four, and five and then come out from isolation on the fifth day if they are negative.

Only a few people are likely to test positive for Covid after five consecutive days. 

Following a study that found self-isolation was not more likely to spread the virus than full isolation for ten days, the UK Health Security Agency advised a reduction of this limit to seven days.

The agency’s scientists fear that a reduction in staff could prove to be counterproductive as it may lead to employees returning to work with the same infection and spreading to others.

Evidence has been established that the majority of people who contract the virus don’t become infected after five days. 

Researchers at University of St Andrews found that most transmissions occur within five days of symptoms developing.

Last summer, the Pathogen Dynamics Group at Oxford University found that only 2% of cases were transmitted within five days following symptoms developing.

Greater Manchester hospital leaders said  it was unavoidable that some surgery would have to be shelved, but that cancer and heart operations would be protected.

The North West — where the hospitals are based — has seen the number of Covid patients in its wards surge 94 per cent over the last seven days to 2,618.

The figure is lower than the peak January number, at 4,200. It shows how hospitals are feeling the pressure.

The hospitals’ spokesperson said that the cancellations were temporary.

Fiona Noden (Bolton NHS Foundation Trust chief executive) said she has to cancel operations in order to keep patients safe.

However, the trusts did not declare a critical incident. This would have encouraged further cooperation between hospitals throughout the region.

When Ms Keegan was asked about trust pressures she replied: “Right now they are under extreme stress with Omicron variant. With the increasing number of cases and hospitalisations. At this moment in time they have always had extreme pressure.

‘We knew that and we actually knew that going into this period — that’s why we’ve put an extra £5.4billion of investment to try and get extra staff, get some extra capacity to be able to put virtual wards in place, extra beds and extra capacity with the Nightingales, etc, all of which we anticipated, that this was going to be really difficult.

‘We’ve had two years of a pandemic, there is a build-up of people who haven’t come forward who need electives — there is a backlog we need to deal with — and then you have got the unknown of Covid — we now know we have Omicron — and also flu was a big unknown as well, how much flu we would have this year.

“We knew this would be a very stressful winter, and the team is doing an amazing job.

‘Part of our NHS contingency plan and resilience plans is actually that we declare this critical status, then we will work together with NHS regional colleagues, the local resilience forums, to make sure mutual aid or support is provided.

These are proven plans that we use every winter.