COVID-19: Looking back and looking ahead

We are just at the end of the fifth week of lockdown, and while government messages are still cautious, we are all hoping that some lifting of restrictions are going to happen by the end of next month.

Some of our colleagues in Europe have started to go back to work, in countries with a lower infection profile than here, and have reported patients coming back in strength, which is good news.

In the UK, it is great to hear that the NHS has built the capacity to manage the current surge in cases, and indeed beginning to reopen some of its services. The extensive reserve workforce that was recruited has not had to be mobilised to the extent anticipated – and let us hope that this situation continues to improve.

Looking back over the last five weeks, the five high points for me have included:

  • Firstly, we seem to have embraced lockdown learning with relish, with a flood of online webinars and learning programmes available, from osteopathic practitioners, social media experts, also from NHS e-learning resources, which opened up for all healthcare practitioners early on.
  • Secondly, around one in two osteopaths have taken to telehealth, which has been a great support for their patients and local community – personally I think this underlines the truth that osteopaths really do have the breadth of experience and skills to improve patient health – even at the end of a telephone line.
  • Third, the amazing number of osteopaths responding to the call for NHS reserves has been inspiring – and has already brought a deep appreciation from health policy makers  that osteopaths are here to play our role in the health of the nation.
  • Fourth, the wonderful sense of community and mutual support among osteopaths, particularly brought home to us by the incredible generosity of donors giving to the iO Hardship Fund.
  • Fifth: The spontaneous appreciation that many of you have expressed for the work of the iO team – thank you for your many emails and calls. If not for Georgina, Sandra, Tessa, Karen, Ashwini, Tracy, Matthew, Sarah, Belinda, Halo, Matt, Frances, Kat and Katie, I think the profession would be in a darker place. Thank you team!

As we look forward to the lifting of lockdown, it is only sensible for us to have to plan for a new normal.

PPE and infection control are most probably going to form a part of our practice lives for a while.

We may need to look at how we work together in different ways to provide services, if for example, restrictions are phased, further lockdowns are needed, or to explore how to work with the most vulnerable. Telehealth I suspect is going to be around for a while longer.

We know that dealing with the long tail of rehab for COVID-19 patients is going to be challenging for community health services; we know that, for example in orthopaedics, over half a million operations have been put on hold over the last two months, which will take years to catch up on.

There will be a need for osteopaths to play our part in these and other issues – it is making sure that we are in the right place to provide care that will be an emerging challenge for all of us.

Your team at the iO will be constantly monitoring both government guidance and other sources to provide up-to-date and practical advice, which should help you to minimise impact on patient care, while ensuring the safety of you and your patients.

We are also looking ahead to make the easing back into practice as smooth as we can:

  • Access to PPE is a confusing exercise, so we are continuing to seek and validate sources of PPE of the right type and quality.
  • As we all look to opening up practice, we are preparing for how the iO can support this with our Brand Osteopath work, which we have been investing in for almost two years now – this we will use to power promotion for the public to seek help from osteopaths.
  • I will be hosting a webinar in mid May to share the Brand Osteopath work with you, and our plans for the future.

We had to postpone our Roadshow meetings last month, but are rescheduling and extending these in the autumn, so we can meet as many of you as possible. I look forward to seeing you there.

I can promise you that the iO Team will be supporting you at every step in the months ahead. One thing is clear: we have to work together as a community, so we can emerge stronger as a profession.

Stay safe and well

Maurice Cheng
CEO, Institute of Osteopathy