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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Coronavirus / COVID-19

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Please find information on our services and visiting restrictions in our COVID-19 section.

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COVID-19 Staff FAQs: Fitness to come to work

Last updated: 13 July 2020

This is a fast moving situation and we will try to keep this page as up-to-date as possible.
Please continue to check national guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your question is not answered below, and you are a member of staff, please speak to your line manager or email covidquestions@ouh.nhs.uk

If your question is about an OUH HR matter that isn't addressed here, please discuss this initially with your line manager who can then raise it with the HR consultant for your Division.

Some links are to documents on the OUH internal staff intranet: if you are a staff member and cannot access the intranet, please email covidquestions@ouh.nhs.uk and we will send you the document you need.

Please remember guidance is likely to change rapidly, so check back to see if you have the most up-to-date version of a document.

Fitness to come to work FAQs

I have been advised by NHS England and my GP that I'm in the high risk group and I should self-isolate for 12 weeks. What should I do?
Please see the Occupational Health guidance on vulnerable staff for more information.
I consider myself at risk due to a long-term health condition. Can I still come to work?
If you consider yourself at risk due to a long-term health condition, please discuss this with your line manager who will follow Occupational Health guidance and complete a risk assessment, and look to make appropriate workplace adjustments. The guidance is available on the Occupational Health intranet home page. Please do check the page regularly as this guidance is subject to change.

If you're unclear as to whether you should be self-isolating due to a long-term health condition, you should contact your GP or specialist in the first instance as this will inform the risk assessment process.
Individual COVID-19 risk assessments
Risk assessment for individuals is a key plank of our support for staff through COVID-19. This is an absolute priority for our Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff and other vulnerable groups, who we know are more at risk.

Managers are responsible for speaking with all their staff to determine who is in a vulnerable group.

The vulnerable groups are:

all staff over 55

shielding staff (please note they may not return to work before 1 August)

BAME staff

pregnant staff < 28 weeks gestation with no underlying conditions

those with a health vulnerability as defined in the Government guidance

We have developed a new online form to support the risk assessment process. You should be able to complete this online, including on a mobile device.

If you have not already had a risk assessment, this form will enable you start the process by directing you to the Occupational Health system.

You do not need to repeat your risk assessment if you have already had one, but you can record the date of your assessment on this form, which will help our monitoring so that we know our vulnerable staff are being supported.

If you complete your risk assessment online, you will receive an Occupational Health COVID Risk outcome email, which you can forward to your manager.

Your manager should then meet with you to consider what steps can be taken to reduce the in-work risk as far as reasonably practicable and they should complete a Manager’s Record- Risk Assessment.

These steps are supported by the resources on the Occupational Health intranet where you can find more information.

For staff who are not in a vulnerable group, there is no need for Occupational Health to be involved. A record of the conversation with the manager can simply be made - again the new online form can be used for this.

Your local HR Team can provide you with general advice about risk assessments and should be your first port of call.

I'm a member of staff and I'm pregnant. What should I do?
The guidance for pregnant healthcare workers from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states that:

Every pregnant healthcare worker must have a risk assessment with their manager.

Employers of pregnant staff should limit all contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients as far as possible.

Pregnant women of any gestation should not be required to continue working if this is not supported by the risk assessment.

Pregnant healthcare workers under 28 weeks' gestation and without underlying health conditions may only continue working if the risk assessment advises that it is safe for them to do so. The risk assessment should ensure that workplace risks that are no greater in the workplace than risks they would be exposed to outside of the workplace. Otherwise staff should be offered suitable alternative work.

If a risk assessment indicates that a pregnant woman under 28 weeks' gestation can continue to work in a patient-facing role, and the woman chooses to do so, she should be supported by her employer.

For pregnant healthcare workers from 28 weeks' gestation, or with underlying health conditions such as heart or lung disease at any gestation, the guidance is unchanged: they should be recommended to stay at home.

Staff in this risk group who have chosen not to follow government advice and attend the workplace must not be deployed in roles where they are working with patients.

I'm a member of staff and I have diabetes. What should I do?

Our Diabetes team has produced a document outlining the guidance for staff who work for our Trust and have diabetes.

It outlines steps that you can take to keep yourself safe at work, including advice on PPE, patient contact and work in the community.

Advice for managers of OUH staff who have diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic (pdf, 171 KB)

If you have any questions about working with diabetes, please speak to our Occupational Health team or your line manager.

What are the arrangements for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff?
People from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 - and the Government has launched an inquiry into why this is the case.

We want to ensure that all BAME staff working at OUH feel safe and supported, and so we are taking a proactive approach, rather than waiting for conclusive research or national guidance. For this reason, like Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, we are now including all BAME staff in the 'vulnerable and at risk' group with regards to COVID-19.

This means that we expect all line managers of BAME staff to have conversations with their staff, to discuss any concerns they have, and to complete a risk assessment. Occupational Health has produced specific guidance for managers 'Protecting our BAME Colleagues' and updated the 'Guidance for Managers COVID-19 health risk assessment' form to support these conversations. Both documents are in the Vulnerable Staff Advice section of the Occupational Health intranet or can be emailed on request.

Our diverse workforce is one of our greatest strengths. We recognise that our BAME staff may be feeling particularly anxious at this time and so we hope that this will make a real difference.

If you have had COVID-19 infection

When is it safe to return to work?
Staff working with haematopoietic stem cell transplantation patients:

Do not return to working directly with haematopoietic stem cell transplantation patients (e.g. blood and bone marrow transplant patients) until you have shown no symptoms for one week and have a negative test. Please contact Occupational Health for this. If you are unsure about your fitness to return please contact Occupational Health for further advice. If your only remaining symptom is a dry cough you may return at day 14 after symptoms started.

All other staff:

Follow the public health guidelines regarding return to work and only return to work on day 8 after the onset of symptoms if your temperature has been normal for 48 hours and your only remaining symptom is a dry cough:

Flowchart describing return to work following a SARS-CoV-2 test (pdf)
I am recovering, are there any tests to confirm I had COVID-19?
The only available tests for COVID-19 are the swab tests during the very first few days of the illness. At present there are no tests to confirm that you have had COVID-19 after this. These later tests are known as antibody tests and may be available very soon. Staff will be notified if such tests become available.
Can I get re-infected with COVID-19?
If you develop further symptoms of COVID-19 please self-isolate and re-present for testing as we are very interested to see if second infections happen, although this has never yet been proven.
Do I need to self-isolate again if my household become unwell if I've had COVID-19?
If a staff member has had swab confirmed COVID they do not need to self-isolate if a household member has COVID. Remember that you can transmit infection through any contaminated clothing / objects brought from the home and take care to avoid this by strict hygiene practices at home and work. If you did not have swab confirmed COVID-19 please contact Occupational Health if your household member becomes unwell.
Am I now immune to COVID-19?
This is not yet clear but on the limited data so far you probably have a level of protection that dwindles over time (possibly months). Whether this immunity prevents all reinfection or merely makes a second round of sickness less intense, and the period of time for which immunity lasts, depends on multiple factors, such as a your genetics and sex, the strength of your initial immune response, and the characteristics of the virus itself as it continues to evolve. We will update this advice as more information becomes available.
I have been shielding but have had swab positive COVID-19. Do I need to keep shielding?
You may be fit to return to your usual work because it is likely that you have developed some immunity to COVID-19 as a result of the infection. We do not yet know how much or how long this will last for. Staff members have shielded for many different medical reasons, and you should contact your specialist for advice before your return to work. You can also request a further Occupational Health risk assessment by completing the form and clarifying that you have had swab positive COVID-19.
Do I still need to wear PPE if I have had COVID-19?
The Trust's infection control practices are essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to patients and colleagues. You must continue to wear all appropriate PPE and follow all the Trust's infection control processes.

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