We've received the following guidance to share from the General Council for Massage Therapies:
We hope that despite everything you have been able to enjoy a few days off. Just before Christmas we wrote to you advising that those of you working in Tier 4 areas should stop work with immediate effect, this advice still holds but we would like to explain further and answer commonly asked questions.
The advice was based on guidance from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) issued on the 21st of December which stated that 'all businesses providing close contact services must close'. Sports and massage therapists were specifically mentioned in the context of this guidance. A link to the guidance is provided here:
During the November lockdown most of you were able to continue working based on The Health Protection Regulations 2020:
The key passage being “The following businesses are allowed to remain open in the Tier 4 area: dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health”
However, we are now in a very different scenario to that of the November lockdown, and the more recent guidance from the BEIS has clearly been driven by the increased transmissibility of the new Coronavirus variant and the soaring infection rates. We continue to seek advice from Government, but you will appreciate that many of our contacts are currently unavailable during the Christmas and New Year period.
It may be useful to understand the difference between legislation and guidance (see under What is the difference between legislation and guidance?)
In summary, the law is what you must do; the guidance might be a mixture of what you must do and what you should do. Our current advice not to work is based on the most recent guidance, but this is not legislation. However, we would ask you to give strong consideration to what you should do. Ultimately this is a matter of personal responsibility.
The document relating to law is this one and guidance, this one.
We are receiving queries on a number of issues:
Q. Is it permissible to work in Tier 4 areas in England within the clinic of a regulated professional.
A. Our understanding is that this is not permissible under the Health Protection Regulations 2020. Please read Paragraph 10 on page 17 of the legislation (see link above).
Q. Can I still work if it is for a medical need?
A. We would refer you to our earlier comments on the very different scenario we currently face compared to the November lockdown, and the need for professional judgement and personal responsibility.
Q. Can I work with elite athletes?
A. In Guidance for Elite Sport Two, there should be minimal “essential medical staff” on the premises and only “essential” treatments can take place. Ensure there is documentation to medically reason treatment.
Q. What constitutes close contact services?
A. It is difficult to obtain a legal definition, but The British Medical Journal in a recent article defines close contact as 15 or more minutes within a 2 metres distance. Of course, there is no research available for the new, more virulent strain of the disease which we need to bear in mind.
Q. Why are there differences in advice between CNHC, GCMT and various PAs.
A. Guidance and legislation can be interpreted in a number of ways and different bodies will also be receiving a variety of advice. There is a consensus amongst most Professional Associations that practice should stop in Tier 4 areas given the seriousness of the current situation. Where there are differences, conversations are taking place to try and resolve these.
Q. Can I carry out home visits?
A. As we are unable to work at all, we cannot work in our own, or others home.
Q. Can we work on front line workers?
A. We cannot find any mention in the guidelines or legislation that there are clients who we may continue to treat.
Please understand that this is our advice as it stands today but we are continually working in the background to produce positive changes for our industry. This has been particularly challenging over the Christmas/New Year as we have been unable to contact anyone for advice.
Can we remind you that you can still offer a virtual service whereby you can carry out the subjective consultation, possibly some objective tests which you can demonstrate, and they can carry out for you to see? You may then be able to offer advice to help if it is clear what the problem is i.e., stretching, rest, exercises etc. Not ideal, but something to maintain contact with your clients.
We know that not everyone is eligible but there is a third self-employment grant available, which hopefully you have already pursued.
Let’s hope that next year is infinitely better than this tough one has been, most of us on the board are practising therapists too and are desperate to get back to our normal working lives. Happy New Year to you all.