Professional Practice during the COVID-19 Pandemic - Regulatory Guidance

17 March 2020

As the UK National Regulator, we understand that you may be concerned about how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on your need to practise safely and your ability to work. Our collective professions are more important than ever at this stressful time for many people - stress that is multiplied amongst d/Deaf and deafblind people because of the lack of accessible information.

We know Registrants are treading a fine line between providing an essential service and not putting themselves (or others) at risk of infection whilst practising. We want you and the d/Deaf person to be confident that the Code of Conduct will operate fairly to maintain standards, whilst also enabling practise to be adapted for safety. We recognise that registrants may feel anxious about having concerns or complaints raised about their practise if they have to adapt it. When a complaint is investigated, we will always take into account individual factors and circumstances. Making decisions about your practise in good faith in light of the Code and the national and setting-related guidance on Coronavirus, is what we expect. Peer support or supervision can help with that decision-making too.

Firstly, it is vital to ensure your own hygiene discipline and to take the necessary precautions. You should not put others at risk through your practise, so you should follow the national guidelines, self-isolate if necessary, and call NHS 111 if advised.

Secondly, you may feel that in highly challenging circumstances, Coronavirus risk drives changes to your practise and whether you accept assignments:

  • If you feel that you need to decline or retract your availability due to Coronavirus, then the Code accommodates that: it would be considered a good reason if Coronavirus prevention or infection was the reason for assignment withdrawal having regard to relevant guidance and protection measures.
  • Coronavirus guidance may prevent you from working as you would normally, leading to a modification of your usual practise whilst maintaining professional standards. If in good faith, you modify your practise to reduce risk of infection, having regard to local and national guidance this would be regarded as a good reason under the Code of Conduct.

Lastly, to ensure that you have practical advice, we have encouraged professional associations to lead on quickly developing specific guidance on issues relevant to their members. You should keep an eye out for updates on websites and for emails from professional associations developing guidance for their members. NUBSLI's guidance can be found here.

That advice, once issued, should be taken into account for your decisions on practise.

In the meantime, there are some things you could consider. Wherever you work, you should have access to the same hygiene protections as others present, and employers, agencies and hosts should provide relevant guidance. Where practise variations are implemented, you should be provided with the necessary means to maintain full access for d/Deaf people and to not put yourself at risk. Possible measures to ask about are transparent surgical masks or the option to work from behind a transparent screen, so that your hands, facial expressions and lip movements are still fully visible (especially in health settings). Communication support via remote video (Facetime for example) may well become more prevalent to reduce travel, increase social distancing or to protect yourself and others from infection. If you work as a Registered Interpreter for Deafblind People and use tactile signing (such as Deafblind Hands-On, Deafblind Manual Alphabet and Block Signing), this presents a greater risk of contracting or spreading Coronavirus. If you work entirely freelance, then you should be developing your own guidance for working with clients and accepting work, drawing on guidance available.

There may be other practise adjustments that you can make in other work settings, but whichever profession or specialism you practise in, we advise that you work with all parties to adapt ways of working to maximise the safety of all involved and keep to the high professional standards we all aspire to.

We will update our guidance as the situation and national guidance develops. If you are needing additional profession specific guidance, please contact NRCPD at: enquiries@nrcpd.org.uk or you can call us at: 0191 323 3376.

CPD:

NRCPD is aware that some planned CPD events may be cancelled or postponed in the coming weeks because of the Coronavirus situation. We understand that the decreased availability of structured CPD means some registrants may find it difficult to meet the annual CPD requirement before their next renewal.

As an exceptional measure in the circumstances, if you are booked on a CPD opportunity that is cancelled for Coronavirus, we will still count those CPD points towards your CPD requirement for renewals due on or before 30 April 2020.

To be eligible for this CPD adjustment, the evidence of the booking and of the cancellation linked to Coronavirus will be need to be sent to us for validation, either emailed to enquiries@nrcpd.org.uk, or by post. This applies for renewals due up to and including 30 April 2020 only. The situation will be kept under review, and guidance for renewals after 30 April 2020 will be issued if required. In the meantime, registrants should seek and book CPD opportunities as normal, throughout the registration year, taking advantage of online events too.

Changes to NRCPD ways of working:

In response to NHS guidelines regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), NRCPD have adjusted some ways of working to reduce risk and ensure we provide our services with minimal interruption. For all registration matters, business continues largely as usual. Adjustments to our complaints work will be made case-by-case to ensure fairness and minimise delay. We will be adopting reduced telephone answering hours: registrants are advised to get in touch via email in preference to telephone for the time being, but if you do call and it is not answered in person, you can leave a voicemail that will be dealt with. General issues will be picked up on social media too. We have minimised attendance at in-person external meetings and events up to 30 April 2020. All adjustments will be kept under review as the situation changes.

With thanks,

NRCPD.

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