COVID-19 pandemic requires AHPs to be flexible, new letter from HCPC and Chief AHP Officers says
Allied health professionals (AHPs) across the UK have received a letter detailing why they need to vary their practices, work outside of their usual environment and support the NHS in new and different ways in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The letter is signed by the AHPs’ professional health bodies, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Chief AHP Officers from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
As the COVID-19 continues to escalate, with the UK recently going into “lockdown” to minimise the spreading of the virus, the NHS and wider health and care services will come under increased pressures and stress. This will be exacerbated as more health and care professionals become sick from the virus or from their caring responses.
Recently, the NHS agreed a major deal with independent hospitals throughout the UK to urgently expand hospital capacity during this challenging time. It is the first deal of its kind ever and will see the health service gain thousands more beds, ventilators and hospital staff to help fight against the Coronavirus.
The letter says that is confident that AHPs will respond to the global epidemic rapidly and professionally, but that it will require temporary changes to practice. It assures that regulators and others will take this point into account.
The letter reads: “As we enter unprecedented times in the NHS and wider health and social care services, we wanted to write to you firstly to thank you for the exceptionally hard work you and your staff are doing and secondly to offer you our support.
“A significant epidemic will require healthcare professionals to be flexible in what they do. It may entail working in unfamiliar circumstances or surroundings or working in clinical areas outside their usual practice for the benefit of patients, individuals and the population as a whole. This can be stressful, and we recognise that you may have concerns about both the professional practicalities and implications of working in such circumstances.”
It says that although AHPs should always follow best practice guidelines from the HCPC and General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), the Coronavirus has led to an unusual emergency situation which means AHPs will need to vary their practices accordingly to ensure people continue to receive quality, safe care.
“We want AHPs, in partnership with patients and individuals we care for, to use their professional judgement to assess risk and to make sure people receive safe care, informed by the values and principles in our professional standards of conduct, performance and ethics. A rational approach to varying practice in an emergency is part of that professional response,” the letter continues.
“It is the responsibility of the organisations in which you work to ensure you are supported to do this. They must bear in mind that clinicians may need to depart, possibly significantly, from established procedures to care for people in the unique and highly challenging but timebound circumstances of the peak of an epidemic.
“We expect employers, educationalists, professional bodies and national NHS organisations to be flexible in terms of their approach and the expectations of routine requirements. Healthcare professional regulators, including the HCPC and GOsC have already committed to take into account factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working.”
AHPs can access information – released in a joint statement from healthcare regulators – about how they might need to work outside of their usual scope of practice in the face of this unprecedented situation from:
The letter finishes by thanking AHPs for their valiant efforts and for the major contributions they have made in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
It concludes: “We are very proud of the response of the professions in all areas of practice in their response to this challenge. It has been exemplary. We are confident of the commitment, dedication, professionalism and hard work that the AHP workforce has and will continue to have over the course of this significant pandemic.”
Commenting on the letter, Karen Middleton, Chief Executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP), said: “This advice from all four Chief Officers, the regulator and the AHP professional bodies is very welcome.
“These are exceptional times, which require a flexible response, and the CSP continues to provide advice and support to its members in line with the scientific advice from the government as it is updated.”