Following Friday’s Government announcement to impose further restrictions to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, I want to share with you the latest information we have available.
Understandably, in these uncertain times, many of you are looking for ‘certainty’ about whether to continue to practice or not.
In the UK, there is no current (and I have to stress – up to now) indication that the private practices of regulated health professions should close their operations, and our ongoing – practically daily – discussions with NHSE, Public Health England and Health Education England have not indicated that they have concerns that will lead to a close down.
Yes, several of our European colleague associations have advised their members to close clinics for the time being. This is in line with their own national governments specific policies around lockdown, and there are osteopaths continuing to look after patients even in these circumstances.
At present we are focussing on two main areas:
- Providing advice for those of you who wish to continue to serve the public and health communities, on how best to conduct your practice safely. We have guidance on video and tele-consultations, infection control, and aspects of business continuity to support you in these very difficult times.
- The other aspect on which we are focusing is engaging with the health and public health bodies to see how the osteopathic profession can help as part of the national crisis management plan. We, and the regulator, are talking to policy makers about how osteopaths can be of assistance as NHS Trusts re-deploy resources for acute viral patients.
Over the weekend the Chief Allied Health Officers of the devolved countries wrote to all the Allied Health Professions, including osteopaths, on the need to be flexible and adapt practice in these times, and we also saw the NHS issue a survey requesting expressions of interest from healthcare professionals who would be willing to support NHS services at this time. You can find details of both on the iO’s dedicated COVID-19 pages.
We are also lobbying Government to extend the financial support provisions available to the self-employed, extending the provision of testing and PPE to osteopaths as front line health workers, and the suspension of registration fees for all healthcare professionals during the restricted period.
We are aware that some of you have chosen to suspend face to face consultations voluntarily, some because of underlying health conditions, others because of concerns about patient safety. Despite this, we know many of you will continue to be available by telephone and email to your patients and will support your local communities through a variety of means.
To those of you that remain open, we know you will continue to do so with care and attention to infection control, triaging ahead of any engagement, and defining ’critical’ as the combination of patient choice and professional judgment, as it should be. This approach is echoed by other healthcare professions also working in private practice in the current circumstances.
As we have said many times, the situation is changing rapidly. To enable us to get information out to the profession as quickly as possible we have created a new Facebook group Let’s Talk Osteopathy, where we will issue the latest, fact-checked information, and a growing support network of fellow osteopaths. This information, plus more in-depth guidance is also available on our website, which is updated daily.
Throughout this period, I and the team here at the iO remain committed to do what we can to support you and the profession. Now more than ever we must unite and work together to support the health of our communities, our public health services and each other.
CEO, Institute of Osteopathy