I had hoped to open with a ‘Happy New Year’. I think we all said goodbye to 2020 with a building sense of hope that 2021 will be the New Year where restrictions are eased, the benefits of the vaccines come into effect, and we can again operate with some semblance of normality.
While there is light at the end of the tunnel, the new COVID variant has seen the country again plunged into national lockdowns and in the coming weeks we will all have to live with even tougher social restrictions to reduce transmission.
The public health guidance for operating in community healthcare settings has not changed with the announcement of the national lockdowns in Scotland and England yesterday, or the restrictions put in place in Wales and Northern Ireland in the last two weeks.
As was the case in the previous national lockdowns, healthcare settings can continue to operate under COVID secure measures and people can leave home to seek care for their health as needed.
As osteopaths we need to maintain our public health responsibilities and high levels of infection control in all our practices.
It is critical that all osteopathic practices continue to be highly vigilant and we urge you to review the robustness of your infection control measures, including use of PPE, pre-screening to determine the necessity for a clinic visit, and the provision of telehealth. This may include a review of your risk assessment and mitigation measures, updating them as appropriate.
With the NHS under extreme pressure, you will continue to play an important role to support the health of the community around you – doing so as safely as possible, for you, your patients, and your staff.
All the guidance for operating your practice is available from the COVID hub on our website. This is open access to all osteopaths, not just iO members, and applies across all four home nations.
On a related issue, we are asked by increasing numbers of osteopaths about whether we are included in the healthcare category for early vaccination. We have been reassured that private practitioners are indeed included in the early priority lists.
With the Government committing to vaccinate the top four categories on the priority list in the coming weeks, we will continue to seek clarity on how and when osteopaths can access the vaccine as private healthcare practitioners. In the meantime, it may be a useful first step if you email – don’t phone! – your local GP practice to remind them that you are a healthcare professional and would like to be included in the healthcare vaccination list.
We have some tough weeks ahead still, but you have already proven the resilience of the profession and the importance of our role in healthcare. We will push through this, and emerge stronger as a profession for it, as 2021 unfolds. Good luck, stay safe.
Watch Maurice’s message to the profession here.
Institute of Osteopathy