Patients no longer need to be distanced from one another in GP and hospital waiting rooms, according to new NHS guidance.
NHS organisations in England have been instructed to “return to pre-pandemic physical distancing in all areas” but people will still be encouraged to wear face masks.
The new guidance covers “all areas” including emergency departments and other hospital settings, ambulances, patient transport services and GP surgeries.
NHS staff, patients and visitors must continue to wear face coverings and follow social distancing measures in healthcare settings. Help us to reduce the risk of infection ⤵️
— NHS B'ham & Solihull CCG (@NHSBSolCCG) April 15, 2022
But it states that patients and staff should continue to “practise good hand and respiratory hygiene, including the continued use of face masks by staff and face masks/coverings by visitors and patients where clinically tolerated”.
In a letter to local health leaders, NHS England bosses state that the service needs to “adapt” to operating with Covid-19 in “general circulation and with the virus likely to remain endemic for some time to come”.
It also sets out other changes in measures for hospitals, including: changes to cleaning protocols; reducing the isolation period among patients who have Covid and scrapping the isolation period for those exposed to the virus.
The new infection control guidance comes as the NHS has been working to tackle the backlog of care exacerbated by the pandemic.
The number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has risen to a record 6.2 million.