Coronavirus

We’ll be adding more information and guidance to this hub whenever we can, so please check back regularly.

Last updated: 20 January 2021

The introduction of tighter restrictions across the four nations in recent weeks comes in response to the significant rise in COVID-19 infections. The virus is highly contagious, leading to fatalities in some cases. These restrictions have important implications for psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors seeking to work in-person. Please keep checking this page as well as the links provided.

Vaccination

Members will recall from our most recent Chair and Chief Executive's email bulletin that we are making enquiries of the Department of Health and Social Care about the vaccination status of psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors in employment and private practice. Those enquiries are ongoing and here is the latest information we have about vaccination.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise Government on which vaccine/s the United Kingdom should use and provide advice on prioritisation at a population level. The JCVI have advised that the first priorities for any COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems.

Advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on the groups that should be prioritised for vaccination can be found on the gov.uk website.

In line with the recommendations from the JCVI, the vaccine will be initially rolled out to priority groups, including frontline health and social care workers.

Included within this, are staff involved in direct patient care. This group includes staff who have frequent face-to-face clinical contact with patients and who are directly involved in patient care in either secondary or primary care/community settings. This includes doctors, dentists, midwives and nurses, paramedics and ambulance drivers, pharmacists, optometrists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and radiographers. It should also include those working in independent, voluntary and non-standard healthcare settings such as hospices, and community-based mental health or addiction services. Temporary staff, including those working in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, students, trainees and volunteers who are working with patients must also be included.

Information provided by the Professional Standards Authority, states: 'In terms of being identified - Local vaccination providers, including hospital trusts and primary care networks are playing a significant role in coordinating with the health and social care system and continue to work with employers of eligible staff to arrange vaccinations at the appropriate time. Nationally, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and Improvement are also working with staff groups and representative bodies to ensure that both employers and staff receive accurate information about both the delivery mechanisms, and the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.'

We are currently seeking clarity from Professional Standards Authority and the Department for Health and Social Care on what this means for our members and how those eligible for vaccination will be identified and contacted. We will update members as soon as we have additional information.

Regional restrictions

There are currently different terms of restriction across the four nations – all have announced a tightening of previously published restrictions over the festive period and beyond.

  • In Northern Ireland, stricter regulations were put in place from 26 December 2020 for six weeks, with a review after four weeks. 
  • Wales entered its strictest Tier 4 restrictions on 20 December 2020.
  • On 5 January, England entered a period of lockdown measures that will last until at least 15 February.
  • Scotland has also implemented measures as part of a national lockdown that came into effect on 5 January.

For ongoing regionally specific information, please check the restrictions in your area and, where relevant, that of your clients, your place of work or educational establishment.

In-person work

Across the UK’s four nations, official government guidance continues to state that people who can work from home should do so.

However, under existing guidance, there may be scope across the four nations for therapists who feel they need to work in-person to do so – provided their workplace is COVID-secure.

  • In Northern Ireland, ‘medical or health services’ is included in the list of essential retail businesses that can remain open under restrictions that come into force from 26 December. 
  • In Wales, people who are not able to work from home and are able to work safely in their workplaces, can do so, provided their workplace remains open. Under the strictest level 4 restrictions. ‘Medical services’ may continue to operate. Community halls or similar can remain open for ‘public services’ and ‘essential voluntary services’ including mental health services. However, ‘individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading’ from these premises.
  • In England, under lockdown measures, travel is still permitted for the purpose of medical appointments. Public services and independent and voluntary services providing essential support are permitted to stay open if following COVID-19 Secure guidelines and ‘support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support - but they must take place at premises other than a private home.’
  • In Scotland, under the lockdown measures that apply to mainland Scotland, support services including peer support groups, therapy groups, one to one therapy and counselling, can operate face to face, where they are essential for people’s wellbeing and remote delivery is not possible. The Scottish government has provided additional guidance for one to one and group support.

Assessing the risks

For therapists working independently, there may be instances where they feel they cannot work effectively remotely. In this situation, therapists should give careful consideration to the consequences of in-person work – including whether they or their clients are at higher risk from COVID-19. It is essential that any therapists who decide to work in-person ensure their working premises are COVID-secure, both for them and their client(s).

Therapists must apply their professional judgement and refer to their insurers and, where applicable, their employers.

Employed therapists should follow their employer’s guidance around working practice. Any member who feels they have been asked to deliver therapy in unsafe conditions should contact our policy team by emailing policyukcp@ukcp.org.uk.

   

COVID-secure environments

There is a legal obligation to create a COVID-secure professional environment. Any practitioner (therapist, supervisor, trainer/educator) who isn’t able to work in a fully COVID secure environment should work remotely or face potential legal penalties. If you are unclear as to whether your premises meet government requirements, please read more..

The latest UK government advice is to work from home wherever possible.

We strongly advise all practitioners to check with your insurance provider.

Employers and employees

If you are an employee of a service, please check your employer’s policies. If you are concerned about working safely during the pandemic, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has produced a resource for employers and employees outlining your rights and responsibilities.

If you believe that you are under pressure to return to in-person work unsafely, please contact our Policy and Advocacy Team via policyukcp@ukcp.org.uk.

Other sources of information

We are advising people who are looking for information about the virus to visit the NHS website, where you will find the most up-to-date information, including what to do if you are worried you might have symptoms, advice for travellers and common questions.

The GOV.UK website also has up-to-date information about the situation in the UK, and you may find further relevant information at GOV.Wales, GOV.Scot, and NorthernIreland.gov.uk.

You can find more information and resources here:

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