I’m writing just after Boris has made his latest announcement, and it looks as though we may be (slowly) heading for the end of the lockdown, as and when the conditions are right.
That sounds exciting, and I for one am looking forward to getting back into clinic and providing a full physiotherapy service again – but where do we stand right now?
Well… as you hopefully know, I’ve been doing online physiotherapy for the past six weeks now. Learning how to do it well has been an interesting process, and has involved a lot of learning and a certain amount of trial and error, but I’ve been getting really positive feedback. I’ve actually been surprised myself, at how effective it can be for most people, and how much we are able to achieve. Having said that, it’s obviously not actually the same as having face-to-face treatment, and I’m not planning to offer it to new patients once I’m back in clinic.
Planning for a return to clinic
But behind the scenes, as well as creating new online courses, doing talks for staff who are working from home, and running my Facebook group, I’ve also been talking with a lot of other doctors, therapists and clinic owners about how best to manage a return to clinic, at such time as we are able to reopen. It’s not yet clear whether clinics will be opening when the UK reaches alert state 3 (partial lifting of restrictions) or whether we’ll have to wait for alert stage 2 (shops and offices reopen with social distancing) but since we’re still in alert state 4, we can’t reopen yet.
Factors I’ve been considering include:
- when my building will reopen
- when my London-based patients will be going back to the office
- how to manage people (including me) being able to get to my clinic via public transport
- how to manage people signing in at reception and waiting for me
- how to manage people in my clinic room because my treatment is often quite hands-on
- how to clean the treatment room between patients.
In preparation for heading back to clinic, I’ve been ordering PPE in line with the guidelines that have been put out by my governing body (I have around a 4-week stock of disposable masks, gloves and aprons, plus hand gel and disinfectant spray), and I’m working out my laundry system (I think the fabric couch covers and pillowcases may have to disappear for a while so that the whole couch is wipe-clean, and I have my laundry service on speed dial to make sure I have enough clean towels).
This is something I’ve had a lot of questions about, as I’ve had people asking why they can’t see me, when their local chiropractor, osteopath or podiatrist is seeing patients on the quiet. As it stands, the advice from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is clear that I can only see patients face-to-face in the following two scenarios:
- I have a high suspicion of risk of serious deterioration from underlying pathology and I am unable to determine this remotely.
- The patient has urgent rehabilitation needs, which if not met, will require care from General Practice, secondary care or social care agencies.
I’m not going to see anyone who doesn’t fit these criteria. This is partly because my insurance would be invalid; but mainly because as a healthcare professional, I think it’s important to maintain a social distance right now. My role is to help my patients maintain and improve their quality of life; I don’t believe it would be responsible to do that face-to-face, at the risk of their (or my own death) or serious illness. However – I do have a portable treatment couch, and plenty of disposable PPE, so as soon as it becomes safe and permissible to do so, this may be a way for me to see some patients who would most benefit from hands-on treatment. Please let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in, and I will contact you as soon as it’s safe for us to do so.
However, in short – although the lockdown has started to ease, nothing much has changed yet with regard to physiotherapy. The only way to see a physio at the moment is still online, so if you or someone you know is struggling, please call my team on 0207 175 0150 and book a session with me. And I look forward to seeing you soon!