I hope you are coping in this most peculiar of times – the very initial phase of the pandemic is over, so we are now making the next set of operational plans.
During the last few weeks, staff from across St George’s have been working intensively to coordinate a safe return to site. As I promised in the Principal’s briefing and Q&A yesterday, this message sets out in more detail the phasing of how, for who and when this will happen.
Institutional safety measures
The top priority throughout this planning and delivery process has been considering the safety and wellbeing of staff and students. With this in mind, we have undertaken a detailed institutional risk assessment, which we are making available to all so that everyone is able to see for themselves the thorough steps which have been taken. Recognised unions representing staff have been consulted as part of the process.
Institutionally, measures being taken to manage these risks will include:
Undertaking local risk assessments and mitigation, led by line managers/Principal Investigators
Cleansing facilities and providing additional resources for individual hand cleaning / clear hand cleansing signage
Displaying signage for social distancing and one-way routes on site
The provision of necessary PPE and covers by the University, if required.
Laboratory based Principle Investigators will also be required to update local rules and carry out lab inspections.
In addition to actions the University is taking, staff and postgraduate students will be required to comply with the principles guiding this next phase in our response to the pandemic, which will evolve to reflect the latest Government guidance. This of course will change with time but at present, the following points apply:
Any work that can be done at home, should be done at home.
Shielding, extremely vulnerable and vulnerable staff/students should work at home wherever possible in line with government advice. If vulnerable individuals need to return to site, an individual risk assessment evaluating fitness to return should be completed and discussed with their Line Manager. Further advice should be obtained from Occupational Health and HR. Willingness to return to campus does not automatically mean that you should.
Individuals must self-isolate if they have even mild symptoms of Covid-19, or are a household contact of someone who has been symptomatic. Details of testing and how the results may impact on your self-isolation are available on the Government website.
Staff and students should minimise use of public transport as far as possible; if it is necessary to use public transport, try to arrange work so that travel can be at off-peak times.
Line Managers and Course Leads will facilitate staff and students to organise their work to enable social distancing, but individuals must also take personal responsibility for social distancing. Where it is not possible to organise work to maintain social distancing, careful consideration must be given as to whether this activity should proceed.
Staff and students are advised to bring their own food and drink to work if required.
Staff must wash their hands with soap and water or hand gel frequently, including whenever they leave a laboratory.
Phasing and key principles
We anticipate that a return to site for staff will be rolled out in four phases. This may change depending on further Government guidance. Some phases, affecting different groups of staff, may run concurrently.
During this phase, in line with Government guidelines, anyone who can work from home should continue working from home.
In this phase, we are aiming for the restoration of all laboratory-based scientific research to site. This will begin with a voluntary return for research staff based in Jenner Wing working on non-Covid-19 related research in three waves at weekly intervals. Further detailed information will follow from Professor Jon Friedland and Professor Deborah Baines later today.
For this group, travel into St George’s must be for lab work/placement only. Staff should go directly to their laboratory/place of work and not linger on site. Any writing up should be done at home.
In this second phase, some basic services for students, such as the computer room, study spaces, and printing services, will be restored, alongside the Radiography suite and OSCE cubicles. Preparations will be undertaken to establish socially-distanced teaching facilities. Access to site will be facilitated to allow the Midwifery School move to Kingston Hill.
We anticipate that this phase will include the commencement of 2020/21 academic year courses from their normal start date. Teaching will be delivered online where possible, but this phase will include the resumption of essential onsite, hands-on teaching, including clinical skills, lab practicals, use of the dissecting room and the simulation suite, which cannot be delivered online.
The site will be open for all staff and students, in line with future Government guidance. Some operations may continue to be delivered remotely, depending on business requirements at the time.
Key documents for staff
Ahead of this phased return to site, staff need to read and familiarise themselves with the following documents, which are now available on the Return to Site webpages.
More information will follow as we implement these phases of our return and, as mentioned above, this will begin with a message from Professor Jon Friedland and Professor Deborah Baines later today with more detail on the first phase of this approach.
I would like to thank all the staff who have worked intensively over the last few weeks to devise and implement the policies and procedures to support the delivery of the next phase in our response to Covid-19. We aim to return to site in a way which prioritises the safety of our staff and students, while also enabling the vital research and teaching we offer to continue.
Very best wishes,
Professor Jenny Higham
St George’s, University of London