Thank you for contacting me about infection control in NHS and wider health settings.
Throughout the pandemic I was fully supportive of the hospital trusts, GP surgeries and wider clinical settings that sought to prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of patients through Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and NHS England (NHSE) have provided guidance on IPC to ensure all settings are, where practicable, COVID-secure. This has included social distancing, optimal hand hygiene, ventilation, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other measures where appropriate to prevent the spread of infection.
I recognise that the pandemic and associated IPC measures have, and continue to have, an impact on patients and staff. I pay tribute to healthcare professionals for their bravery and selfless dedication under extremely difficult circumstances.
Guidance has continued to evolve throughout the pandemic. NHSE recently set out updated advice recommending that IPC measures should be managed according to local needs. The guidance is clear that, where patients are required to wear facemasks, this must never compromise their clinical care.
On visiting arrangements, NHSE maintains that all healthcare settings should be transitioning back towards their own pre-pandemic policies on inpatient visiting and patients being accompanied in urgent and emergency care, outpatient or primary care services, with the expected position that no patient should be alone during their episode of care or treatment unless this is their choice.
With the numbers of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital still elevated, it is right that NHS trusts and wider clinical settings prioritise staff and patient wellbeing by using local risk assessments to prevent and control the spread of infection. This is particularly important for people who are immunocompromised.
But IPC measures should not deter anyone from coming forward for treatment. I urge the Government to ensure NHS hospitals are being supported to safely increase capacity and prevent delays to patients requiring hospital interventions.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.