COVID-19: management of staff and exposed patients and residents in health and social care settings

Guidance on the management of staff, patients and residents who have been exposed to COVID-19.



This guidance provides advice on the management of staff and patients or residents in health and social care settings according to exposures, symptoms and test results. It includes:

  • staff with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • staff return to work criteria
  • patient exposures in hospital
  • resident exposures in care settings

Please note that this guidance is of a general nature and that an employer should consider the specific conditions of each individual place of work and comply with all applicable legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

There may be further information specific to each country in the United Kingdom, as this guidance was written by Public Health England primarily for an English health professional audience. To see if country specific information is available, please refer to Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales, or Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

Published 4 April 2020
Last updated 28 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added new section on lateral flow device (LFD) testing in asymptomatic staff.

  2. Added information on isolation periods and re-testing exemptions.

  3. Added information on isolation periods and re-testing exemptions.

  4. Updated self-isolation period.

  5. Updated self-isolation period to 10 days.

  6. Updated the exemption of PCR retesting period from 6 weeks to 90 days.

  7. Updates made to section 4 to include guidance on when health and social care staff can be exempt from being considered a contact for the purposes of Test and Trace.

  8. Updated flowcharts to reflect the extension of the self-isolation period from 7 to 10 days.

  9. Updated to reflect the extension of the self-isolation period from 7 days to 10 days for staff who have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result from the community; 14 days isolation period for staff and patients who are admitted to hospital (section 2); inclusion of re-testing guidance in staff (section 3).

  10. Updated footnote 1 of flow chart documents.

  11. Updated flowcharts with additional guidance on clinical symptoms.

  12. Removed action for individuals with negative test result from ‘Symptomatic worker flowchart’.

  13. Updated flowcharts with information on self isolation for cases identified as contacts via the test and trace system.

  14. Added new section on NHS test and trace.

  15. Updates made to introduction and sections 4.3, addition of section 4.4 and section 5.

  16. Updated in light of the test and trace guidance and added guidance for risk assessment of staff in the event of PPE breaches.

  17. Added sentence in section 2, clarifying that second episodes of symptoms require isolation and repeat testing.

  18. Clarification of managing household members of exposed health or social care workers.

  19. Updated text and added section on residents in care settings.

  20. Updated text and added 2 new flowcharts.

  21. Updated title and content to provide clarification that the guidance applies to any healthcare setting, not just hospitals.

  22. Clarification of action in the event of a household member with a negative test.

  23. Updated return to work criteria, patient exposures, and added a flow chart.

  24. First published.