The proposal to re-open schools (in additional to some other workplaces) at the beginning of June has created an understandable amount of anxiety amongst teachers and other staff members with medical conditions. Some schools / employers have reacted to this by saying that employees need to get a report / letter from their GP saying what they can / cannot do. Unfortunate this is not possible for a number of different reasons
1) At a time when the NHS in general is under strain it is clearly not possible for General Practice to be asked to generate an individual report for each and every patient returning to work
2) Even if it were feasible this is not work provided through the NHS. Although we do offer (and charge for) privately services not available on the NHS we do not offer a formal Occupational Health service (which a detailed report of this kind would fall under)
3) An individual’s risk depends on a number of different factors at the workplace including their employer’s general risk mitigation strategy in relation to ability to social distance, policy on sick colleagues, use of face-coverings / gloves / hand sanitiser, use of communal equipment etc. It is not possible to advise on what an individual can / cannot do in isolation as it sits within the overarching management plan / Occupational Health COVID plan.
4) The legal responsibility to protect employees from infection and illness while at work sits solely with the employer. They can choose to deputise this responsibility to an Occupational Health department and clearly at the moment (while trying to deal with such a significant outbreak) many employers are choosing to do so. Employers should not suggest that this is somehow within the remit or capacity of NHS General Practice.
5) In many workplaces (including schools) a return to work under the current guidance would be tricky verging on unfeasible. It is likely further guidance and changes to current rules will come out nearer the time and clearly we cannot predict what the advice will be nearer the time of schools opening / workplaces re-opening.
We are able to provide patients with a brief summary which confirms current diagnoses. This can also state any medication on repeat or recently prescribed. We are also able to provide patients with copies of any clinic letters or discharge summaries that we have received from hospital. Employers can then use this information directly or use an Occupational Health service to decide on any restrictions to duties. If you would like this information please e-mail our team on firstname.lastname@example.org and they can advise on any additional steps / proof of ID required to provide this information.
If your employer says that this does not suffice then please direct them to this section of our website. If despite the above an employer wants a bespoke written letter detailing diagnoses, details of severity and other such information then they need to contact us directly so we can advise of fees, limitations on advice possible and likely timescales for the provision of the report.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter. We are keen to (as ever) help our patients in any way we can but there are limits on what we can provide when this sits outside of the remit of the NHS, outside of the remit of general practice and needs to be reviewed as part of an overarching risk mitigation / COVID plan at the workplace.
Please see the following link in relation to the most recent guidance on shielding https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19.
From this please note what has changed:
'While previous shielding guidance helped protect those most at risk from COVID-19, many people reported that they found the advice very restrictive.
Since the introduction of shielding, many new measures have been introduced in our communities, including the rule of 6, COVID-secure workplaces, and the widespread use of face coverings, all of which have reduced the need for such restrictive shielding advice.
The government also has better data on new infections and has introduced local COVID alert levels, with rules and advice based on the level of risk in a local area. This updated guidance offers additional advice to the clinically extremely vulnerable over and above local COVID alert level guidance. This new guidance aims to strike a better balance between providing practical steps to help keep you safe while reducing some of the potentially harmful impacts on mental and social wellbeing that were associated with previous strict shielding. It sets out the steps clinically extremely vulnerable people can take to protect themselves at each local COVID alert level.
In the future, the government will only reintroduce formal shielding advice in the very worst affected local areas and for a limited period of time. This will only apply to some, but not all, very high alert level areas and will be based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer. The government will write to you separately to inform you if you are advised to shield. You are not advised to follow formal shielding advice again unless you receive a new shielding notification advising you to do so. From now, refer to the new local COVID alert levels for your area.'
At medium and high levels 'You should continue to work from home where possible. If you cannot work from home, you can still attend your workplace as your workplace should be COVID-secure. The general advice on work has further details about what to do if you have concerns.'
At very high levels:
'Where at all possible you are strongly advised to work from home, because the rate of transmission of the virus in your area is very high.
If you cannot work from home, and are concerned about going into work, you may want to speak to your employer about taking on an alternative role or change your working patterns temporarily (for example, to avoid travelling in rush hour).
If there is no alternative, you can still go to work. Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Your employer should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work.
Where some employers are not managing the risk of coronavirus, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where businesses fail to comply with enforcement notices, this could lead to prosecution.
If you have concerns about your health and safety at work you can raise them with your workplace union, the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority.'