COVID-19: doctors isolating and those in vulnerable groups

Read our frequently asked questions for doctors who are isolating, have underlying health conditions or live with someone who is in a high risk group.
Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 20 May 2020
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When should I self isolate?

  • If you show symptoms of the virus you should stay at home and not meet up with other people for seven days.
  • If you feel better after that period you can start your usual routine again.

If you share your home with someone who has symptoms

  • You should stay at home and not meet up with other people for 14 days.
  • If you develop symptoms during that time then you must stay home for seven days from when you became ill.

The above advice is following guidance from Public Health England.


Will I be paid if I self isolate?

NHS staff receive full pay whilst in self-isolation. 

In the event that you are asked to self-isolate, you should do so as quickly as possible.

You should discuss with your clinical manager whether there are any duties which you can perform from home whilst you are self isolating, if you are not ill.

‘Full pay’ is paying what the staff member would have otherwise earned if they were not in isolation, inclusive of any enhancements.


Should I self-isolate if I have a health condition or am over 70?

Governments are advising that those who are at increased risk should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.

This includes:

While this stops short of recommending self-isolation, it does recommend measures which would be hard to reconcile with delivery of some frontline services.

NHS employers are being advised to engage with staff who are categorised as being at ‘increased risk’ and jointly consider whether adjustments to work or redeployment might be appropriate. This could include working remotely or in lower risk areas.


What does shielding mean?

Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.

People with the following serious underlying health conditions:

People with specific cancers
  • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer.
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment.
  • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer.
  • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors.
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs.
  • solid organ transplant recipients
  • people with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • people with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  • people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

The NHS in England has contacted people with these conditions to provide further advice.

If you think you fall into one of the categories of extremely vulnerable people listed above and you did not receive a letter by Sunday 29 March 2020 or have not been contacted by your GP, you should discuss your concerns with your GP or hospital clinician.


What is the effect of shielding?

You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter. Please note that this period of time could change.

Visits from people who provide essential support to you such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue, but carers and care workers must stay away if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus.

You may find guidance from GOV.UK on home care provision useful.

All people coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house and often while they are there.

You should have an alternative list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell. You can also contact your local council for advice on how to access care.

If you think you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 such as a new, continuous cough or fever, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

Further information on shielding is available at GOV.UK


Will I receive pay if I am shielding?

Whilst there is nothing specific in the Public Health England guidance we believe you should still receive payment if you need to shield yourself from the workplace. 

Ideally you should take advice from occupational health, however, we are aware that this may be difficult in the current environment. 

You should therefore discuss with your line manager in the first instance if there is work that you can carry out from home and, if not, you should seek confirmation that your pay will be protected. 

If you have any concerns you should contact us.

Further advice is available from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.

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I live with someone who is shielding, what should I do?

If you live with someone who is shielding, you are not required to do the same.

However, you should do what you can to support them in shielding and the government advice is that you should stringently follow guidance on social distancing and reduce your contact outside the home.

If you care for but don’t actually live with someone who is extremely vulnerable, you should also stringently follow Government guidance on social distancing.

We recognise that working in a hospital environment may make stringent social distancing impractical. You should discuss your concerns with your line manager in the first instance to see what other arrangements can be agreed.

Some doctors have agreed to temporarily live separately from a family member who is shielding, however, this is voluntary and arrangements need to be agreed.

We believe any additional accommodation costs in these circumstances should be met by the employer and you should ensure that the arrangement can be brought to an end if it is not suitable.


Will I be paid if I stay at home with a family member who is shielding?

There is currently no national agreement on this issue therefore we are talking with NHS Employers and the Department of health and Social Care in an effort to secure one. 

You should initially discuss your circumstances with your line manager to see whether there is work you can do from home or if you need to take leave what payments can be made. We believe that suitable arrangements should be made to protect your pay in the current exceptional situation. 

If you are unhappy with the proposal from your employer then please contact us.


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