This information aims to support registrants working in the community to adapt their practice to COVID-19, in line with the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics.
This is primarily targeted at professionals who deliver non-emergency services in the community – outside of hospitals. This might include primary care services, professionals who visit service users in their homes or private clinics.
You should read this information sheet alongside our other pages on applying the standards in response to COVID-19, and all relevant Government guidance.
At the point of writing, Government guidelines require people to social distance. Local requirements vary and will continue to adapt to the number of cases nearby. However, as a general rule, if we come in contact with people outside our household we must maintain a set distance (of 1 or 2m, this varies across the four nations). Where this distance cannot be maintained, other measures should be put in place such as wearing face coverings.
In certain regions, Government is also advising that we stay at home where possible, unless it is essential. This may include for medical reasons, such as a medical appointment.
If you are a health and care professional in the community, these measures are likely to have a significant impact on your work. The nature of much of the care and treatment our registrants provide generally does not allow for social distancing. You may also have service users who are self-isolating, and therefore unable to receive the treatment they ordinarily would without additional protections in place.
Registrants need to ensure they are managing the risk of them, their colleagues or their service users contracting COVID-19. For professionals working in the community, decisions will therefore need to be made to determine if services can be safely delivered whilst following social distancing.
Assessing risks and providing care
Your primary consideration should be about managing the risk to service users, yourself and others at all times. We expect registrants to stay up to date with a range of resources such as government guidance (including their regional tier, COVID Alert Level or equivalent) and advice from their professional bodies and to use their professional judgement to assess the level of risk.
We advise weighing up the risks of contracting COVID-19 by providing that care and treatment against the risks to the service user if that care and treatment is not provided. In particular, you should consider:
- the health implications of not providing treatment to that service user; and
- the potential burden that may place on other services in the health and care sector if untreated.
You should also consider whether you can provide treatment remotely, or in another way which minimises the risk of transmission.
It may be that some treatment can be postponed, or alternatives put in place in the short term (such as by signposting to online resources or exercises, or providing consultations virtually).
This won’t necessarily be possible for all types of care or treatment, but where this is an option we would encourage you to do so. This would then mean that you are focusing only on care and treatment where the risks of providing treatment outweigh the risks to yourself and others of contracting COVID-19. Where possible, the government advice still encourages the use of online or telehealth services for service users.
Providing services remotely
If you decide to provide care and treatment remotely, you will need to do so in a way which continues to meet our standards. In particular, you must:
Explain if there are any limitations on what care and treatment you can provide remotely.
Adapt to the technology access / abilities of your service users.
See our information sheet on communication for further advice.
Ensure that any platform you use keeps your service user’s data secure.
Also, if you are working from home, making sure your practice environment is secure and members of your household are unable to overhear confidential conversations.
See our information on data protection for further advice.
If you cannot sufficiently manage risk remotely, adapt your practice accordingly.
Also carefully consider the practical restrictions and inherent risks of practising remotely and manage those risks appropriately.
See our information sheet on managing risk for further advice.
We have guidance on providing online services on our website that may be of interest:
- Information on providing online services
- High level principles for good practice in remote consultations and prescribing
Maintaining a safe practice environment
If after assessing the risk you decide that care and treatment cannot be delayed and cannot be delivered remotely, you will need to put the appropriate steps in place to reduce risk to yourself, colleagues and others.
We have set out in more detail how registrants should manage risk, which includes advice around infection control and PPE.
You should follow all the Government advice regarding hand washing and hygiene to maintain a safe practice environment as well as Infection Prevention Control guidelines issued by the government.This may include advice on wearing a mask or face covering or taking measures to ensure that service users can maintain social distancing from other service users or professionals who are not treating them – for example, by limiting the number of service users in a waiting room.
You should also ensure you follow the advice around self-isolating if you develop symptoms
Recording and communicating your decisions
Service users and their carers are likely to be anxious about the current circumstances. It’s important that if you are still providing services to them you are mindful of this and give them the information they want or need in a way they can understand.
If you do visit someone in their home, you should make sure you explain your approach to infection control and personal protective equipment at the earliest opportunity. You can find further information on infection control on our website.
You should record any decision to continue to provide care/treatment in the home, noting down the discussions you have had, and confirming you gained informed consent to proceed.
You can find further advice and support by visiting your professional body’s website. You can find details of the professional bodies for our registrants here.
For other support, such as financial, you can go to the Government website.