Hello, I am Susan Farwell, President of the Institute of Osteopathy. I want to give you an update on how I see the COVID situation as we move into autumn and winter.
Clearly, it isn’t going away and the uncertainty continues. However, we are all getting better at managing the situation. We have all wondered if increasing numbers of cases will mean that we need to close our practices or stop seeing patients. Will local lockdowns force osteopathic practices to close? The answer is No – unless there is a change to the original coronavirus legislation from March and April, where osteopaths are exempt from closure.
Whatever happens over this winter, we are in a situation where we can continue to see patients, provided that we do what we need to prevent infection spread. Wherever you practice, tier 1,2 or 3, the same rules apply, which we probably know off by heart now but can be found here.
We have our PPE and our cleaning routines in place. We make sure there is plenty of space for people to come in and out of the practice safely.
I understand that a number of osteopaths are working for Test and Trace, in addition to working in their practices. The key detail you need to know is that, as healthcare workers who are wearing PPE, we are considered to be outside the “possible carrier of infection” category. So it is important to let your patients know that if they are contacted by Test and Trace, they should list you in the Healthcare category This will mean that you don’t count as a possible infectious contact and you shouldn’t have to close your practice and self-isolate for 14 days.
That said, we know that the Test and Trace system does seem to have inconsistencies in terms of frontline advice, and needs more reliability in how it deals with osteopathic practices (and indeed other regulated private healthcare practitioners) who are identified as a being in contact of a COVID positive person while in clinic. The iO team is working hard at trying to get this improved, so we are hopeful this will work properly soon.
I don’t have to tell you that it’s tough going but we are really making a difference through our willingness to stay literally in touch with our patients. In fact, a number of us are seeing many more new patients as people find that their usual health care provider is only offering telephone or video consultations. I have heard very moving accounts of osteopaths stepping in to look after vulnerable people or people who have had COVID but have not received the post-illness care that they need to fully recover. Colleagues have told me that a little osteopathic work can go a long way in helping people to feel better.
There are a number of plusses in our current situation.
- We are well trained to assess patients, make a diagnosis and treat
- In addition to hands on treatment, we are able to offer help with graded rehabilitation in various forms
- We adapted our practices so that we can continue working safely
- We are making a very positive difference and this is being recognised by the public and government alike.
The difficulties are that
- The pandemic has caused financial loss and uncertainty. A very few osteopaths have stopped practicing. Spacing appointments, sourcing PPE, extra cleaning and changing reception arrangements all mean more work and less income.
- I hear that people are finding this whole situation very tiring, “wearying” was the word used by a Northern Counties osteopath. Some of us are working harder, seeing more new patients, having to change our admin.
- Another distressing feature is the continuous sense of change and uncertainty. We are all having to get used to frequent last minute changes and being unable to plan for the future
At the Institute of Osteopathy, we are looking for ways that osteopaths can support one another. We want to be creative about solutions and responsive to different needs in different parts of the country.
We are also thinking about how to support the profession when we come out of all the current restrictions. We are preparing projects to make it easier for osteopaths to take their rightful place in UK healthcare.
I have always been proud to be an osteopath but never more so than over the past 6 months when I have seen our profession step up. Society has never experienced such enforced isolation. We don’t know what the long term consequences will be but we know that they can’t be good. So the personalised, person centred care we offer is just what’s needed at the moment.
Please let us know if there is something we can do to support you. And please look after yourselves and don’t wear yourselves out. Resilience is the word of the moment.