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New BPS guidelines to help increase adherence to self-isolation

07 September 2020

The best ways to encourage self-isolation are explained in new guidance published today from the British Psychological Society.

In ‘Encouraging self-isolation to prevent the spread of Covid-19’, experts from the BPS share recommendations to help the public, health workers and test and trace call handlers appreciate the importance of self-isolation and practical ways to achieve this.

Lead author, Professor Madelynne Arden, said:

“The NHS test and trace services and local public health teams have been working to identify people at risk and to instruct them to self-isolate, but adherence has been low.

This new guidance acknowledges the barriers to self-isolation that many experience and provides advice on ways to overcome them.”

Key recommendations include:

  • More focus on explaining the big difference those who self-isolate make, keeping themselves and their local community safe.
  • Employers should give staff confidence that self-isolation is normal, valued and an acceptable thing to do.
  • Encourage people to make self-isolation plans in advance.
  • Local services should offer support to those self-isolating, ensuring they have essential supplies and any dependents are looked after.
  • Fines should only be used as a last resort and only used in extreme examples of rule breaking.
  • It is important that people understand the difference between self-isolation and social isolation/lockdown.

Professor Arden continued:

“Self-isolation is a key part of the UK strategy to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by people who are symptomatic and have tested positive, and for those who are at risk of developing Covid-19 due to having had close contact with someone with symptoms or a positive test.

So far there has been little focus on how we support people to self-isolate.  Instructing them to do so is not enough.

We need to acknowledge that self-isolating can be difficult for many people due to a range of different factors.

Educating people about what they need to do, when and why and helping them to plan and supporting their isolation is the best way to increase adherence to self-isolation so important in the fight against Covid-19."

Dr Angel Chater, chair of the BPS Behavioural Science and Disease Prevention taskforce, said:

“These guidelines are part of the continuing work of the BPS Behavioural Science and Disease Prevention taskforce in its aim to demonstrate to health officials the key behavioural science considerations that can optimise public health efforts.”

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