Important update to staff testing protocol - 1 September 2020

The criteria for staff testing have been updated to reflect the current UK case definition and eligibility for testing for the general population. This approach, which reflects national guidance of eligibility for testing, has been reviewed and agreed by the Fife Scientific Technical Advisory Cell (STAC).

Criteria for testing

Testing can be arranged within 5 days of symptom onset

  • New fever / high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • New, continuous cough
  • Loss of / change in sense of smell or taste

A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature). You may feel warm, cold or shivery.

A new continuous cough is where you:

  • have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
  • have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
  • are coughing more than usual

Referral to testing as soon as symptoms develop is important. Samples should be taken as quickly as possible and ideally while the case is still symptomatic within 5 days of symptom onset.

The symptomatic NHS Fife staff testing route is not designed for testing asymptomatic staff and must not be used by staff inappropriately. Alternative local guidance should be followed if asymptomatic testing is advised, e.g. as part of outbreak management, or for specific staff working in high risk health care areas as per Scottish Government policy. Care home staff who are eligible for weekly asymptomatic testing should access testing via their care home manager through the UK social care testing portal.

Guidance on common cold symptoms

Following the return of schools after a prolonged break, it is common for colds and similar viral infections to circulate. We have had a number of staff enquiries about isolation advice if they or a member of their household has a cold. Under the revised protocol there is no requirement to arrange testing or for households to isolate unless they have one of the symptoms above (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste).

During COVID staff should have a lower threshold for staying away from work with any respiratory symptoms even if these do not meet the criteria of the three main symptoms for testing. Generally if you are unwell with other respiratory symptoms e.g. runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, then:

  • Follow usual policy for sickness, although please stay home until cold symptoms have fully recovered, or at least almost resolved. Do not come to work with a new or actively developing cold as this will easily spread to colleagues or patients. It may be appropriate to discuss work from home options with your line manager if you have an ongoing cold but are fit to work remotely.
  • No need for COVID testing or isolation of household members unless anyone develops one of the key symptoms of COVID-19
  • Ensure good hand and respiratory hygiene

The Scottish Government have recently issued advice for parents and carers with children with common cold symptoms. Health and social care staff with children in school should follow the guidance in this letter. If your child does not have symptoms of COVID-19 but has other cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, they do not need to be tested and they and you do not need to self-isolate. Your child can go to school if fit to do so.

Staff Testing Protocol
Staff Member Testing Flowchart
Household Member Testing Flowchart
Annex C - Testing Referral Form