FHT Statement on coronavirus (COVID-19)

First published: 18 March 2020

Last updated: 1 June 2020, 12.40

This statement has recently been updated. The areas highlighted indicate which sections have been added to or significantly modified since 22 May 2020, 09.40. 

Dear FHT Members

We are deeply saddened that at a time when positive touch has never been more needed by those in our local community, we are faced with an unprecedented situation where social distancing has become an imperative to protect the health and wellbeing of not just ourselves and our clients, but globally – for humankind.

From the outset, our advice to members has been to adhere to best practice and follow government guidelines, which continue to evolve on a daily basis. As such:

  • on 18 March, we asked you all to restrict your working practices and more specifically, not to provide treatments to clients if you or they were at an increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • on 20 March, we asked you all to suspend any treatment that involves face-to-face contact with clients, as soon as possible.
  • on 23 March, the Prime Minister announced that everyone was to stay at home unless carrying out one of four essential tasks: shopping for basic necessities; taking one form of exercise a day; attending to a medical need/ or to care for or help a vulnerable person; or travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home. The aim of these stringent new measures was to help protect the NHS and save lives.

We know that many of you took the initiative to stop practising some time before this announcement, and we are truly grateful to you for making this difficult but socially responsible decision.

As your professional association, we fully appreciate the implications COVID-19 has had on both your clients and your therapy practice, and we will continue to offer our advice and support where we can, based on the latest information and guidance provided by the UK government, NHS and other authorities. Please revisit this webpage regularly, as we will update it as and when new information and guidance becomes available.

Q. Should I stop practising?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FHT has based its advice in line with the latest guidance from the UK government, NHS and other authorities.

The Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Sunday 10 May outlined the government’s plans to start moving the UK out of lockdown, but emphasised that for the time being, social distancing measures must still continue, to try and reduce the risk of COVID-19 peaking again in the future.

Further still, in a more detailed, 52-page document that the Prime Minister presented to parliament on 11 May, called OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, the government stated that:

“…it is likely that reopening […] personal care establishments where close contact is inherent (like beauty salons) may only be fully possible significantly later [than the opening of outdoor spaces] depending on the reduction in numbers of infections.”  (page 21) 

On 13 May, the government also updated its guidance on which businesses should remain closed, citing spas and massage parlours* as two of these.

Until the government and other authorities provide clear guidance on how businesses that involve ‘inherently close contact’ can re-open safely, it is the FHT’s opinion that it is still inappropriate to carry out treatments, in person, at this time.

*The phrasing ‘massage parlours’ is obviously far from ideal – please be assured we will raise this with the government in due course.

Q. I provide personal training sessions outdoors – can I resume training sessions with my clients? 

On 1 June 2020, the government updated its guidance for personal trainers and coaches on the phased return of sport and recreation in England, which states:

“If you are a personal trainer/coach you can now work with clients outdoors, providing you are meeting no more than 5 other people from outside of your household, outdoors, and you are staying a minimum of 2 metres apart.

“You can meet with different clients in a single day as long as it is in gatherings of no more than 6 and you are maintaining social distancing. You should not spend time with anyone not from your household indoors.

“You should also enforce strong hygiene measures. This might be cleaning any equipment rigorously in line with wider guidance on hygiene, for example by using antiviral spray and washing hands thoroughly before and after use.”

Please note four key factors the government has outlined above:
1. That the session is conducted outdoors – where the risk of infection is significantly lower than inside
2. That the session is with no more than 5 other people – the trainer/coach takes the total up to 6 people
3. That the trainer or coach stays at least 2 metres away from the client – to meet current social distancing measures
4. That strong hygiene measures are enforced at all times.

Based on this current guidance for personal trainers/coaches, the FHT would assume that it is also acceptable to carry out other, similar practices outdoors, PROVIDING THAT ALL OF THE KEY FACTORS ABOVE CAN BE MET. This might include, for example, yoga or tai chi sessions with up to 5 clients at a time. It would NOT include treatments or services where the client and therapist are unable to stay 2 metres apart.

Before starting any outdoor sessions with clients, meeting the key factors outlined above, we would strongly advise carrying out a risk assessment and establishing how strong hygienic measures will be enforced. While we are still waiting for industry-specific guidance on how to return to work safely (when the government indicates it is safe to do so), the FHT has produced some generic ‘preparing to return to work’ guidelines at www.fht.org.uk/coronavirus which outline some key areas for members to consider.

Q. When will it be safe to treat clients again and what things do I need to consider?

Over the coming weeks and months, the government will be introducing a range of adjustments to the social distancing controls it currently has in place. These adjustments will happen in ‘steps’, each separated by a number of weeks, so that the government can closely monitor the effect of each adjustment.

The government has indicated in the recovery strategy document referred to above, that sectors such as personal care (including beauty salons) may not reopen until 4 July, subject to ‘the five tests’ and ‘further detailed scientific advice, provided closer to the time’.

The ‘five tests’ laid out by the government for easing measures in a stepped approach are:

  1. Protect the NHS’s ability to cope and provide sufficient treatment across the UK
  2. A sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19
  3. Reliable data showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels>
  4. Confidence that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand
  5. Confidence that any adjustment to the current measures will not risk a second peak.

To help our members PREPARE for returning to work, when the government and other authorities indicate that it is safe to do so, the FHT has put together some member guidelines, outlining a number of areas that will need consideration (available at www.fht.org.uk/coronavirus).

Q. Why can physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors work, but I’m being asked not to?

According to the latest guidance from the UK government, businesses that must remain closed at this time include hair and beauty salons and spas and massage 'parlours’ (please see above, regarding the government’s poor choice of wording).

Physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors are listed as ‘exceptions’ and it is our understanding that these statutory regulated healthcare professionals are being advised by their relevant bodies to only treat urgent and essential cases, where – for example - the patient might otherwise draw on NHS resources if not treated. Otherwise, they are generally being advised to provide online/remote consultations and support, where appropriate.

We do appreciate that, ordinarily, our members would be treating clients whose health and wellbeing would be greatly improved by the therapies they offer, and that many of you are frustrated at not being able to support your clients at this time, or earn much-needed income. However, taking measures to protect you and your clients from COVID-19 remains a key priority for now.

Q. Is FHT offering any training that covers how to return to work safely?

The FHT is looking into this but please note that the UK government is yet to offer our industry guidance on how to return to work safely. This situation is ever evolving, which includes the UK's scientific advisors’ (SAGE) and health officials' understanding of the virus. We have covered some areas that we feel need consideration in our 'preparing to return to work' guidelines (freely available at www.fht.org.uk/coronavirus ) and will of course update this as we learn new information.

Q. Is the FHT lobbying the government to represent my interests as a professional therapist during COVID-19?

Along with 20 other organisations and stakeholders in the complementary, traditional and natural healthcare industry, the FHT is a Core Member of the recently formed Integrative Healthcare Collaborative (IHC). As part of this collaborative, we have already sent two letters to the government to represent the interests of our members during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first was letter sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 16 April, asking the government to look at ways to support self-employed therapists who have been in business for less than one year and/or who are not entitled to other loans and grants aimed at supporting businesses impacted by the coronavirus. To read the letter click here.

The second letter was sent to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on 10 May, asking if the government would consider how it will assist complementary healthcare professionals to secure face masks, if future advice from the government requires the use of such items when it is announces that it is safe to return to work. To read the letter click here.

At the moment, the IHC is just getting a third initiative underway, regarding the government helping to support professional therapists to get back to work safely and as soon as possible. Please keep an eye on this statement and your FHT weekly e-newsletters for updates. 

Q. Can I have a refund on my insurance?

If you are in the 14-day ‘cooling off’ period from the start date of your policy, you can contact us at info@fht.org.uk and request a full refund. However, if you are past the initial 14 days of the policy start date, a refund will not be possible, as per the terms and conditions of your policy. This is to ensure that you have adequate cover in the event of a claim arising from any treatments you may have given since the start date of your policy.

Q. Can I put my FHT membership and insurance on hold until I’m working again?

Even with strict social distancing measures in place, we’re delighted that a large percentage of our members have found innovative ways to support their clients’ health and wellbeing remotely, for example, through emails, telephone support and live video apps (read our Working remotely with clients blog item for more information and guidance). In order to cover this type of work, it is important that your membership and insurance remains current and active.

In order for us to assess your individual membership and insurance needs, or if you are unsure whether the remote support you are providing your clients would be covered by your insurance through the FHT, please contact us at info@fht.org.uk so that we can offer you advice on an individual basis. However, please could we ask you to be patient at this time, as we are receiving a very high volume of queries.

Q. Will my insurance cover me during coronavirus?

The insurance policies available through the FHT (Combined medical malpractice, public and products insurance; Personal accident cover; Business stock and equipment; Homeworker; Salon) do not provide income protection.

If you have any further queries regarding your insurance with the FHT, please contact us on info@fht.org.uk. Again, please could we ask you to be patient at this time, as we are receiving a very high volume of queries.

Q. With so many training events and conferences cancelled, do I still need to complete my CPD?

Please remember that classroom-based training is not the only way you can gain CPD and with social distancing measures likely to be a requirement for some time, we anticipate a lot more training providers will start offering courses online (however, please also note that not all of these courses will be recognised for membership and insurance – contact FHT at info@fht.org.uk before you pay for any online training).

You can also gain CPD points through other activities you can easily do at home, such as reflective practice, case studies, developing a marketing plan and completing the A&P spirals in International Therapist magazine. For more information please visit fht.org.uk/cpd and read our recent blog item, Development and learning from home.

As most of our members have online access, we have also collaborated with our accredited course providers and event speakers to put together a ‘Stay at Home' video series, to help you complete CPD, free of charge. You can take a look at the videos currently available at fht.org.uk/stay-at-home-video-series (more will be added on a regular basis) and if you complete the accompanying activity document for each video, you can also gain valuable CPD points. NB: the Stay at Home videos are for CPD purposes only and are not to teach insurable hands-on skills.

Q. Is the government offering any financial support for the self-employed?

In March, the government announced a number of provisions for businesses affected by coronavirus, including special grants and loans (for more information see www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support). Some members may also be eligible for Universal Credit but this will depend on individual circumstances.
 
On 26 March, Chancellor Rishi Sunack outlined the government’s Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme. Some of the key features of this scheme are as follows:
 
  • The self-employed will be able to access a taxable grant of 80% of their profits, capped at £2,500 per month and based on three years’ tax returns, or one year’s tax return, as a minimum
  • The scheme is open to those who earn under £50,000 a year
  • If you receive the grant, you can continue to work, start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work, or duties as an armed forces reservist
  • The grant does not need to be repaid but will be subject to income tax and self-employed national insurance
  • Those who are struggling financially are encouraged to apply for Universal Credit and/or other financial support available from the government.
 
On 29 May, the Chancellor announced that the scheme is being extended and that those who are eligible will be able to make a claim for a second and final grant in August 2020.

The online service for the second and final grant is not yet available (please keep an eye on www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support for updates). If you are eligible, the second and final grant will be a taxable grant worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

If you are eligible and have not yet applied for the first grant, you must make your claim on or before 13 July 2020.

For more information visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

Q. Are there any government-backed loans I could benefit from as a small business owner?

The Chancellor announced on Monday 27 April a new, 100% government-backed Bounce Back Loan Scheme for small businesses, which can be applied for from 4 May. Here are some of the key features of this new scheme:

  • Businesses can borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days.
  • The new scheme is in addition to the existing package of support available to small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including the (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme 
  • The bounce back loans, available through a network of accredited lenders, will be interest free for the first 12 months and no repayments will be due in the first year.
  • Businesses will be able to apply online through a short and simple form, available from Monday 4 May.

Click here to learn more about the government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme 

Q. Is there a quick and simple way to find out if my therapy business is eligible for financial support from the government?

The government’s website now has a quick and simple online support tool to help you find out what financial support is available for you and your business at www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder. It is important to note that on the second page, you will be asked, ‘How many employees does your business have?’ If you are self-employed, simply tick the top option (0-249 employees) as you will then be asked if you are self-employed a little bit further into the process. You can also update any of the answers you have already provided, using the handy links at the bottom of the page.

Q. Is there any government support for charities?

On 8 April, the Chancellor announced a £750 million package of support for frontline charities, including hospices:
Read more about the HM Treasury announcement of coronavirus funding for frontline charities

The government also said that charities can access many of the measures the Chancellor previously announced for businesses:
Read more about Coronavirus (COVID-19) support for businesses

Other organisations that have resources that may help charities during the COVID-19 crisis include: 
 Association of Chairs
• National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
• Small Charities Coalition
• Welsh Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA)

Q. I was providing a mobile therapy service, but as I’m now supporting my clients remotely, from my own home, can a claim a tax rebate on any of my expenses?

If you are working from home, you may be entitled to claim a tax rebate on certain expenses including a proportion of how much you pay for lighting, heating, insurance, council tax and water rates.

If you work less than 25 hours a month from home, it is likely that you would have to calculate this proportion yourself. However, if you work from home for more than 25 hours a month, you can use HMRC’s simplified expenses system. This will calculate a flat rate for your allowable expenses, based on the number of hours you work from home each month, which could range from £10 up to £26 per month. (This flat rate doesn’t include telephone or internet expenses, but you can claim these by working out the actual costs – for more information see www.gov.uk/expenses-if-youre-self-employed).

Claiming a tax rebate on business expenses can only be done via a self-assessment tax return which, as a self-employed therapist, you would submit each year.

Q. My clients need my support, now more than ever. How can I take care of them at this time?

We understand that you may be feeling sad or frustrated when social distancing measures mean you are not able to physically treat clients.

As such, we’d like to share some recommendations that we hope you will find helpful:

  • First and foremost, take good care of your own health and wellbeing at this challenging time, including your emotional and mental wellbeing. Find some time each day – even if it’s just 10 minutes - to practice mindfulness, yoga, or a short breathing exercise. Or simply do something you enjoy, whether its baking, taking a long warm bath, exercising or reading a book. 
     
  • If a client tells you that they have symptoms of coronavirus or they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, please signpost them to reliable information and support (see links below).
     
  • If you are qualified and insured to practise therapies that can be conducted remotely, such as counselling or other types of talking therapy, you could offer these to your clients as a safer alternative to therapies that involve contact.
     
  • Stay in touch with your clients, even if you are not seeing them. If they are vulnerable or lonely, they will really value just having a conversation with someone they have come to know and trust.
     
  • As highlighted further up in this statement, you might be able to offer your clients some tips – over the phone, live video apps or email – about how to stay as healthy as possible while at home. This could include some simple self-help techniques and we will be providing online links and guidance to help you do this over the coming weeks.

Compassion and acts of kindness are key during this challenging time to support those in our local community, and we know this is something our members are perfect at providing, even remotely. Just please remember to be compassionate to yourselves, too.

Q. As things are constantly changing, how can I keep up to date?

We will be continually reviewing and updating the content of this webpage, so please keep coming back and checking it on a regular basis. However, as the situation is constantly evolving, we would strongly recommend that you keep an eye on the latest information provided by the government and other authorities:

Q. Do you have any other information I might find helpful?

We will be sending our members special e-newsletters, offering information that we hope will be useful for both you and your clients. Also keep an eye on our blog (fht.org.uk/blog) and social media platforms. Here are some items we have published recently that you might find helpful:

Q. If I have other queries, how can I get in touch?

As we are sure you will appreciate, the FHT, its staff and board have also had to follow government guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, which includes working from home. At this point in time, we are unable to answer your queries or take payments over the phone (please note membership renewals and new applications can still be processed online).

Until further notice, please contact us by email at info@fht.org.uk and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

We will keep members notified if there are any other services we are temporarily unable to provide.

We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding. On behalf of everyone at the FHT, we wish you continued good health at this challenging time.

Christopher

Christopher Byrne,
President of FHT