Coronavirus cases are rising rapidly across the country, with national lockdowns in effect across the UK. With the end of the pandemic still some way away, restrictions and disruptions to your work are likely to continue.

Restrictions in your area

There are significant local differences in the coronavirus restrictions across the UK. These will continue to change as infection rates change and areas move in and out of regional lockdowns, levels or tiers. Those who work close to county or country borders, or where you or your clients travel to another area, may be particularly affected.

Businesses and individuals should interpret and apply the guidance as they see fit, ensuring that they comply with any relevant legal duties. It's the responsibility of employers and the self-employed to apply a risk-based approach and implement the precautions necessary to comply fully with public health advice.

Implications for practice

For businesses and private practitioners working in business premises

Across the four nations, the latest COVID-19 guidance provides scope for face to face work with clients in business premises (under various exemptions for services relating to mental health), providing they are COVID-secure and risk mitigation measures are rigorously employed.

For private practitioners working from home

If all or part of your home meets the criteria of a business address, then it is possible to work with clients in a private dwelling (home). The criteria include:

  • all or part of your home is registered as a business address with Companies House
  • you are eligible for business rates for all or part of the property
  • you have public liability, employers (where relevant) and any other required business or professional insurance in place
  • your home address  is registered with HMRC for self-assessment tax purposes

Any of these would demonstrate eligibility to practise at a home address, however it's vital that your premises are COVID-secure and that you've undertaken a risk assessment - see our guidance on face to face working.

We also recommend contacting your local authority, as they are playing a vital role in explaining rules to their communities and have responsibility for enforcing regulations applying to businesses.

For private practitioners working in a private place (home) with a client at high risk of harm to themselves or others

In England, there is an exception under the gatherings legislation for providing assistance to a vulnerable person, or to enable one or more persons in a gathering to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm. The meeting in person must be reasonably necessary to prevent a client from harming themselves or suffering physical or mental illness. This exemption applies even when a private home or dwelling is not registered as a business address. It's vital that you check with your insurers that your practice is covered and that your supervisor agrees with your decision.

A similar exemption also applies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you decide you have a legally and ethically justifiable reason for seeing a client face to face, make sure you adhere to our face to face guidance.

Working with individual clients

Once you're clear on the guidance that applies to your circumstances, you must decide how you will work with your clients by going through a decision-making process on a case by case basis.

Factors to consider include:

  • the client's need and safety
  • your need and safety
  • the context of the service
  • the premises you practise from
  • whether other options are possible and the ethical and practical risks of any decision
  • the known risk factors of age and any pre-existing health conditions for both yourself and your client
  • particular needs of clients who may not be able to engage using online platforms or by phone
  • whether any risk to the client, either from others or from themselves. can be managed remotely
  • your supervisor’s feedback
  • your insurance cover

We encourage you to work through the ethical decision-making process with your supervisor to make a personal decision that takes these factors into account.

Once you've made your decision, check our guidance on working face to face or working remotely.

FAQs

Am I a key worker?

Our members work across a range of settings, with a wide range of clients, and many of you have children of school age.

Across all nations of the UK, parents have been asked to keep their children at home, wherever possible. Children of those whose work is critical to the coronavirus response, or who work in one of the critical sectors, and cannot keep children safe at home, will be prioritised for education provision. Vulnerable children and young people are also eligible for support.

Like many other healthcare professionals, counsellors and psychotherapists are not specifically listed in any of the guidance above. However, if you think your work could be classified under the headings, we advise you to contact your individual employer, school or local authority for clarity on the approach they're taking locally.

We're also engaging with all governments across the UK to ensure there is recognition of the vital need to ensure appropriate access to counselling and psychotherapy throughout the crisis.

As a therapist, do I qualify for a priority vaccination?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise government on which vaccines the UK should use and provide advice on prioritisation at a population level. The JCVI has 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.

Read the JCVI advice on priority groups for vaccination

In line with these recommendations, the vaccine will be initially rolled out to priority groups, including frontline health and social care workers. JCVI advice has informed the approach across each of the nations of the UK. It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19.

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 and community settings: 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're 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're also seeking similar clarity from the relevant agencies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We will update members as soon as we have additional information.

The vaccination programme across the UK

While the advice on eligibility and supply of vaccinations is being led at a UK level by the JCVI, the pace and programme of delivery is different in each of the four nations. More information on each nation's approach is available below.

Further guidance for practitioners