COVID-19: Update and advice

13 March 2020

Following the Government’s statement yesterday, we know that many of our members are naturally concerned about their health, that of their patients and the impact on their practice.

The situation is rapidly evolving as the UK moves into a ‘delay’ phase to slow the spread of the disease and we are closely monitoring sources to understand the impact to our members and provide advice and guidance as available.

Current situation

In over 80% of cases, symptoms are very mild, with a suggestion that many of these mild cases are going undetected.  Currently, it is the elderly and those with underlying health conditions that are of a high risk of developing severe symptoms or becoming critically ill.

The number of confirmed cases remains very low in the UK as a proportion of the population, but we all must take sensible measures to slow the spread of the virus.

In addition to the sanitation advice previously provided which still stands (see below), the Government is now advising that if you have symptoms of COVID-19, dry cough or high temperature, then you should self-isolate for at least seven days to slow the spread of the disease.

While the UK Government has stated that, currently, it is not going to consider closing schools or large events as the evidence suggested this may not contain the spread, other European countries have chosen to enforce this policy.  Some of our osteopathic colleagues in these countries have voluntarily chosen to suspend their clinics for a period of time to support their government policies to reduce the spread of the virus.

Impact on osteopathic clinics

In terms of UK osteopathic clinics, again the advice provided below still stands in terms of ensuring high standards of hygiene in your clinic, increased handwashing and the right to defer treatment to anyone who presents with symptoms.

While we have yet to see evidence of a decline in patient numbers, there have been concerns raised should this change and the impact on loss of earnings.

The Government announced earlier this week a provision to small business for Business Interruption Loan Scheme to assist them through this period if required.  We are investigating what other Government provision may be available for those registered as self-employed but with no income protection insurance and will inform our members once we have any further advice.

We will be closely monitoring the commercial effect by asking for volunteers to join an audit group to measure patient numbers during this period. If you would like to be involved, please email

Role as healthcare professionals

We also understand that concerns are being expressed on the impact of the spread of the disease on practice, and the practicalities and implications of working in such circumstances.

As osteopaths and healthcare professionals this may entail adapting your usual practice for the benefit of patients. This may include increased telephone contact for follow-up with your patients, particularly those most vulnerable.  Any consultations, including those by telephone, are still chargeable at your normal fee, as these charges are for your time as a healthcare professional.

We will continue to share relevant information and implications for osteopathic practice as made available.  For those osteopaths that are employed, you should also consider the advice of your employer and specific to your place of work.

In the meantime, we encourage our members to continue to use your professional judgement to assess the risk to yourself and your patients, ensure continuing safe care and apply a rational approach to varying your practice in the unique circumstance that we find ourselves.

We would like to end with a few words from our President, Susan Farwell to all members:

“This challenge to the world’s health is affecting us all and will stretch us as health care practitioners. Let’s be creative in the way we look after our patients, local communities and particularly ourselves.  We are well trained, autonomous practitioners, used to thinking for ourselves. I recently wrote that osteopaths are good at constructive scepticism.  This will be a useful weapon in the face of the uncertainty and escalating fear we see around us and in the press.   We can make a difference because of our grounding in supporting health and doing the simple things that keep our patients feeling cared for and with a measure of control.”


Maurice Cheng

CEO, Institute of Osteopathy

Current advice for containment and delay of the Coronavirus
  1. For personal hygiene: increase handwashing, ensuring you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, use a tissue for coughs and avoid touching your face.
  2. If you have a cough or temperature, even if mild, self-isolate for seven days
  3. You may wish to provide a notice to or establish from patients, information from them before their appointment on symptoms and recent travel.
  4. If a patient arrives with symptoms of the virus you may wish to decline treatment as a precaution.
  5. If you have had any contact with individuals with suspected symptoms, ‘self-isolate’ as per the Government’s advice.
  6. Continue to maintain a high level of cleanliness and hygiene in your clinic, both in public areas and in-clinic rooms, in line with the health and safety legislation. This may include although, not exclusively:
  • Sanitising gel for general use in public areas and clinic rooms.
  • Sanitising all surface areas (e.g plinths) and other equipment post each patient.
  • Sanitise all public areas at the end of a day’s session, e.g desks, chairs etc with relevant sanitiser.

Useful links

We will keep members informed of any material changes to the above advice as it is made available.