What Coronavirus means for your private practice
Due to the hands-on nature of most complementary therapies, many professional bodies are recommending that their members stop seeing clients temporarily to help slow the spread of the virus. With that in mind, we’ve made the decision to waive all Therapy Directory membership fees for the next 3 months while many of you will be physically unable to work with clients.
With the ever-increasing media coverage of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we know a number of our therapists are seeking information about the steps they can take to support their practice and their own health and well-being during this period of change.
We’ve gathered all of the current advice we could find as of 20th March about best-practice during the pandemic, so that you can access it in one easy place.
As you know, this is a period of rapid change, and the sources cited throughout this article may be updated frequently to reflect the latest information – please check the links provided to make sure the details are still relevant. At the very least, we encourage you to keep up to date with the latest from the Government, NHS and Public Health England sites, as these will be informing most other reputable sources.
We hope you find this useful during this period of change. If you would like us to include any additional information, please let us know.
In this article:
- Working with clients during the pandemic
- Provisions for face to face sessions
- Providing online and telephone services
- Financial support for small businesses
- Looking after yourself during the pandemic
Working with clients during the pandemic
Several professional bodies have recently posted member updates about working safely during the pandemic:
The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) issued advice to their registrants. “You may have already been informed by your professional association that in the light of recent Government guidance on social distancing you should cease hands-on therapies with immediate effect. Even if you have not been told that, CNHC’s position is that you should suspend seeing your clients until further notice.
“It is a difficult decision to take given the impact it will have on livelihoods, but CNHC believe it is the right thing to do to assist in stemming the spread of coronavirus which can be transmitted by those who do not develop any symptoms. Safeguarding the health of your clients, your own health and that of your staff is paramount. We have a duty of care to do all we can to help end this world health crisis.”
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) published a joint statement from Chief Executives of statutory regulators of health and care professionals, including the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) and General Medical Council (GMC). “We encourage health and care professionals, working in partnership with each other and people using services, to use their professional judgement to assess risk to deliver safe care informed by any relevant guidance and the values and principles set out in their professional standards.
“Our regulatory standards are designed to be flexible and to provide a framework for decision-making in a wide range of situations. They support professionals by highlighting the key principles which should be followed, including the need to work cooperatively with colleagues to keep people safe, to practise in line with the best available evidence, to recognise and work within the limits of their competence, and to have appropriate indemnity arrangements relevant to their practice.”
The Federation for Holistic Therapists (FHT) has also issued a statement, recommending professionals “restrict working practices accordingly and to not provide treatments to clients if you or they are at an increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus.”
For the sake of brevity, we’ve only listed three professional bodies here; generally speaking, the advice appears to be fairly consistent, but you may wish to check your own professional body for specific details if it’s not listed above.
Like us, all professional bodies are consistently encouraging their members to keep an eye on Government, NHS and Public Health England sites for further updates as these events unfold.
Some key things to consider are:
- What steps can you take to minimise risk for your clients and yourself? It may be necessary to cease face to face consultations if your practice involves physical contact with clients. Or, you may consider increasing hygiene measures and holding pre-session consultations, to temporarily suspend face to face contact.
- Are you capable of providing therapy remotely – e.g. online or via telephone – during the pandemic? Would these methods be suitable for your clients?
- How will you communicate any updates to your clients – for instance, if you become unwell and are unable to take appointments?
- Do you have a process in place for clients to let you know if they are unwell, or have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 – and has this been communicated to them? Do you need to review your cancellation procedures in light of recent news?
- If you contract COVID-19, do you need to let your clients know that you may be asked to provide their details to the relevant authorities for contact tracing, and is this covered by your contracts and insurance?
- How might your fees be affected? For instance, if you normally charge a cancellation fee, will this still be the case in light of the pandemic? Might this cause a client to feel compelled to break self-isolation to come to an appointment?
- In case of postponed or cancelled appointments, will you offer reimbursement or voucher offers? Will you allow rescheduling of appointments for a later date?
- How will you take care of your own health during this time?
Face to face appointments
If you are able to continue seeing clients, there are many simple steps you can take based on existing advice, such as:
- Practise social distancing. Keep at least one metre away from clients (ideally two metres for extended periods, i.e. over 10 minutes). Avoid hand-shaking or other physical contact.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after each client.
- Regularly disinfect your clinic and workspace, e.g. treatment rooms, door handles, hand-rests of chairs, computers, laptops, phones, writing implements etc. between clients.
- Make sure tissues are available to clients (if they weren’t already) so they can practice the mantra “catch it, bin it, kill it”. Pre-divide tissues into batches so that you can provide clients with their own portion – don’t have one central box of tissues that could become contaminated.
- If you provide a bin for tissues, make sure it is emptied between clients and use appropriate measures to prevent yourself from coming in contact with the contents – or ask clients to take their tissues home and dispose of them themselves.
- Air out the treatment room where possible by opening windows etc.
- Consider reducing appointments or spacing appointment times out further – in a bid to reduce footfall in your clinic, and to prevent clients overlapping or interacting with one another.
- Use your judgement: if you have any doubts about your own health or that of your client, take the appropriate steps. This may include self-isolation, sign-posting clients to resources such as NHS 111 or PHE, and notifying other individuals who you may have been in contact with (or who may be affected).
These are just a few ideas that could make a difference; think about the way your practice currently operates, and what changes you could put in place that will have the greatest impact for you and your clients. You could even discuss ideas in our Member Notice Board, or in other online therapist groups that you’re a part of.
Providing online and telephone services
If you are not able to provide face to face appointments, you can consider other ways of supporting potential and existing clients – and, indeed, the future of your business, post-pandemic.
Telephone support in-between consultations, particularly for clients who may be feeling isolated during this time, could be an additional service to offer. This could also present an opportunity to check-in with potential clients and drive your future bookings.
The use of live streaming – on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, or sites such as Namastream – could offer a helpful way of providing continued services to clients. Other online platforms could help you to host virtual consultations, and one to one or group sessions – for therapies such as yoga or pilates, for example.
We list some popular video-calling and messaging services below – use the links to see which one fits the bill for your practice.
- Zoom: Trusted by household names such as Sonos, Delta Airlines and 21st Century Fox, Zoom offers a free Basic package with no limit on one to one meetings (meetings with three or more participants have a 40-minute cut off).
- VSee: The platform of choice for 1000+ telemedical companies, as well as NASA for the Space Station. It offers HIPAA-approved secure video communications, and their Free packages offer up to 25 video calls per month plus unlimited secure messaging.
- Signal: Provides end-to-end encryption on calls and messages, and is available in desktop and mobile app form. As an open-source project, it is free to use.
Financial support for small businesses
The Government has created a new hub of information for employees, employers and businesses following the 2020 Budget, including measures to protect small businesses and self-employed people during the pandemic.
This includes a dedicated helpline for businesses and self-employed individuals in financial difficulty, and how to access support: 0800 0159 559.
If you have income protection included on your insurance policy, you may wish to familiarise yourself with any updates your insurer has provided in light of the pandemic.
Looking after yourself during the pandemic
Last – but by no means least – we want to take a moment to talk about you. The human being who bridges the gap between individuals needing help and support (particularly during this anxiety-inducing time) and their own rich personal life (and that of their family) which may be being affected by the current state of play.
First and foremost, we can’t stress enough that following official guidance on social distancing and hygiene is paramount to safeguarding your physical health. After all, you can’t look after others without looking after yourself first.
When it comes to seeing clients, your own judgement is key, and this is supported by the advice given from professional bodies. In their statement to members, FHT writes: “We fully appreciate that restricting or ceasing practice carries many implications, not least financial, however it is paramount that we all take measures to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing at this time, including our own.”
In short, you will need to weigh up the two sides of the scale:
- Your ethical duty to protect the welfare of clients
- Being responsible for your own health and wellbeing.
If you can take measures such as working online with clients, this may strike an excellent balance between the two and offer you a way to continue therapy while balancing risk – provided you are both mentally and physically (and ethically) capable to do so.
If you find yourself unable to commit to sessions for the immediate future, the key thing is to make sure that your clients are informed, and to make provisions for their ongoing support in your absence. If you need help doing this, your professional body will be able to signpost you to the relevant sources.
Finally, we wanted to take a moment to share some of the self-help literature that we’ve produced for the public in the last few days. As you know, this is something that we truly believe in at Therapy Directory and Happiful, and sometimes the little things really do have a big impact.
- Coronavirus: 8 Ways to help yourself and others
- Worried About Coronavirus? Here’s What You Need to Know
Please note: Therapy Directory and Happiful are not affiliated with any of the organisations referenced in this article, and this article has not been sponsored by any third parties. We strongly recommend that you carry out your own research to make sure that you can make an informed choice that best suits your business. While we hope that this information is useful, we cannot be held responsible for any business decisions you make based on this article, or for the information published on third party sites.
All information correct as of 20/03/2020.