NationalNews

Social distancing rules in the NHS have been scrapped, according to new guidance issued by the health service.

Patients in England will no longer need to be distanced from one another in GP and hospital waiting rooms.

NHS organisations have been told to return to "pre-pandemic physical distancing in all areas", but people will still be encouraged to wear face coverings.

The new guidance covers "all areas" including emergency departments and other hospital settings, ambulances, patient transport services and GP surgeries.

However, it states patients and staff should continue to "practice good hand and respiratory hygiene including the continued use of face masks by staff and face masks/coverings by visitors and patients where clinically tolerated".

In a letter to local health leaders, NHS England bosses said the service needs to "adapt" to operating with coronavirus in "general circulation and with the virus likely to remain endemic for some time to come".

Other changes in measures have also been set out, including changes to cleaning protocols, reducing the isolation period among patients who have COVID-19 and scrapping isolation for those exposed to the virus.

The new guidance comes at a time when the NHS is trying to work through a backlog of care, made worse during the pandemic.

The number of people in England waiting to start routine treatment has risen to a record 6.2 million.

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