09 Mar 2020

Last update 11 August 2020 

As COVID-19 continues to impact on the NHS and wider society, advice continues to change. Our primary concern is, as always, the health and safety of our members and the patients you serve.

A joint letter about supporting allied health professionals and allied health professional support workers during the COVID-19 epidemic in the UK has been published by the four Chief Allied Health Professions Officers, AHPF, Council of Deans and HCPC.

The NHS Staff Council has issued a number of statements which contain relevant advice to those members working in the NHS, including working with patients and your own working arrangements. 

For advice for healthcare professionals in each of the four nations, follow the links below:

 

Self Isolation

What should I do if I need to self isolate?

All members should follow the advice that has been published by the NHS regarding self- isolation.

  • If you have an underlying condition and are concerned about being at work then you must speak with you line manager and ask for occupational health advice.
  • Remember that your employer has a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure that they protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees which includes allowing you to self-isolate if you or any of your dependents are vulnerable.
  • Further advice and guidance can be found from ACAS and the TUC.
  • If you encounter any problems or have any further queries then please speak to you local BDA TU rep or if they are not available then contact the BDA Trade Union.

If I work within the NHS will I be paid if I need to self-isolate?

Yes. This time should be treated as sick leave, and normal sick pay arrangements should apply even if you are not showing any symptoms.

If I work outside of the NHS will I be paid if I need to self-isolate?

Again you are entitled to take this time as sick leave even if you are not showing any symptoms. If you have a contractual entitlement to sick pay then it should be paid. The Government has also announced that as a temporary measure, all employees will be entitled to statutory sick pay from day one of self-isolation.

Advice has also been issued by ACAS which offers some examples of good practice and some simple steps to help protect your own health and safety at work. View ACAS advice here.

Do I have the right to self-isolate?

The TUC have lots of useful information around your rights at work in relation to the coronavirus outbreak. The priority of the trade union movement will always be the health and safety of people. Perhaps the most important aspect around the right to self-isolate may be found below:

“Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 provides workers with the right to withdraw from and refuse to return to a workplace that is unsafe.”

If you are a pregnant, have an underlying health condition, or have concerns around coronavirus and your employer is refusing to implement reasonable measure to assist you in self isolating please contact the BDA Trade Union team who will assist you. Following public health advice is vital for both your own personal wellbeing and the collective wellbeing of fellow workers and wider society.

Dietetic Practice

Are dietitians identified as key workers?

Yes, health and social care staff are identified as key workers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. See guidance below:

Can I get tested?

Testing for COVID-19 is now available more widely. If you are working in a frontline key worker role or are in an at risk group or live with someone who is, you can self refer for a test. UK Government has confirmed that the following people can get testing. Find out more herehttps://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested 

This is advice taken from the UK Government. This issue is devolved so find out more information here:

Can I use technology to run outpatient/community services?

The use of technology is a good answer to providing services whilst social distancing and self-isolation is essential. There are many options now available for you to remote work, stay in touch with your team and continue to see patients in an outpatient or community setting. To find out more visit our web page on the rapid implementation of digital tools.

What if I need access to evidence-based dietetic resources?

PEN have created a temporary open access website for all dietitians and RD2B. This is to support those on the front line or working virtually to provide evidence-based care and combat misinformation. Follow this link to access the whole PEN system without having to log in.

What PPE should I be wearing?

Ensuring you have the right PPE when interacting with patients is critical to ensuring your safety. Please see our statement on PPE for more information, and an explanation on what the BDA is doing to ensure government guidance is robust. 

The government has also, as of June 15th, issued guidance on the wearing of a facemask in all settings:

  • "In all settings that are unable to be delivered as COVID-19 secure, all hospital staff (both in clinical and non-clinical roles), when not otherwise required to use personal protective equipment, should wear a facemask; worn to prevent the spread of infection from the wearer."

If you work in a hospital or primary care you should be provided with a mask. Find out more information on the government website

 

Employment Rights and Wellbeing

What should happen if my employer asks me to undertake reasonable alternative duties?

Any proposed changes should be discussed and planned with local health unions including the BDA as soon as possible. Any work should be within your grade and professional scope of practice. You should also be paid appropriately for any shift work.

Further information is contained within the NHS Staff Council joint statement.

What should I do if I am concerned about the behaviour of my employer around COVID-19?

As your Trade Union, we are here to support you whenever you are concerned about the behaviour of your employer.

Should you have any difficulties at work in relation to the virus, then please speak to your local BDA TU rep in the first instance. If that is not possible, then please contact the TU office. Email tusecretary@bda.uk.com or call 0121 200 8080.

As your Trade Union, we would appreciate your time to fill in this survey regarding work issues around COVID-19.

What if I am asked to carry out a procedure or work in an environment without the appropriate PPE?

You have a right to refuse to do this as your employer has a duty in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to  ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees. If you encounter any problems with this or have any further queries then please contact you local BDA trade union rep or failing this the Trade Union office

What if I am concerned about my mental health?

The COVID-19 outbreak means that life is changing for all of us for a while and places increased pressure on front line staff. Here are some resources and simple things you can do to help you to look after your mental health and wellbeing during this uncertain time.  

Public Health England have launched a free online training course on Psychological First Aid (PFA) designed for all health and care workers and volunteers. Access the course here

NHS staff have been given free access to a number of wellbeing apps from now until the end of December 2020 to support mental health and wellbeing. Even if you don't work in the NHS, these can be useful tools to support your mental and physical wellbeing. 

  • Unmind, empowers staff to proactively improve their mental wellbeing and including digital programmes designed to help with stress, sleep, coping, connection, fulfilment and nutrition
  • Headspace, is a science-backed app in mindfulness and meditation, providing unique tools and resources to help reduce stress, build resilience, and aid better sleep
  • Sleepio and Daylight, are clinically-evidenced sleep improvement programmes that is fully automated and highly personalised, using cognitive behavioural techniques to help improve poor sleep.

Further NHS Resources

Resources free to all:

Mind
Mental Health Foundation
Mindfulness Association

I'm concerned a colleague may be suffering domestic abuse, what can I do?

Sadly, isolating and increased time spent at home, combined with financial worries and other stresses is leading to increased rates of domestic abuse worldwide. None of these things are an excuse for abuse, but we should all be more aware of the increased risks. 

The physical workplace can normally be a place of safety, but with social distancing measures in place that option may be gone, leaving people isolated from their support networks. However, many are still in contact with their co-workers, union reps and employers – that means we can all play a role in ensuring they and their children stay safe.

The TUC has created an online resource to help you identify when someone may be suffering domestic abuse, and what you can do to help. 

National Domestic Abuse Helpline

24 hour helpline (run by Refuge UK): 0800 2000 247

Scotland National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriages

24-hour helpline: 0800 027 1234

Northern Ireland Domestic Abuse

24-hour helpline: 0808 802 1414

Parents and Guardians

What if I'm pregnant?

If you have concerns about pregnancy and COVID-19 we would recommend you read guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The TUC has also published a blog looking at the employment rights of pregnant women who many need to isolate themselves. 

If you are pregnant, you are more vulnerable to getting infections than a woman who is not pregnant. If you have an underlying condition, such as asthma or diabetes, you may be more unwell if you have coronavirus.

If you have any concerns about your pregnancy, contact your GP or consultant as usual. Help is still available.

Dietetic Education

What impact is this having on education providers and learners?

In order to minimise any potential risks to practice-based learning, education providers have the responsibility to assess the risks, develop and implement an appropriate strategy that enables learning and assessment standards to be maintained in line with the BDA Curriculum Framework 2013 and Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulatory standards. The HCPC have provided the following information for education providers. 

We have also created additional guidance to complement the HCPC advice. This advice seeks to address issues specific to the BDA's expectations of accredited programmes, which should work for most. However, given the differences in delivery that exists across programmes, each team will need to consider the implications for themselves locally for whatever plans they choose to implement. In some instances, this will mean thinking through plans for individual learner circumstances.

See the following advice announced on 6 April 2020 by the four Chief Allied Health Professions Officers:

https://councilofdeans.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Joint-statement-on-how-we-will-support-and-enable-the-student-allied-health-professional-workforce-to-respond-to-the-Covid-19-V3.pdf

The AHP leads published this joint statement with the Council of Deans of Health and the Health and Care Profession Council on how they plan to support and enable the learner AHP workforce to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The statement was signed by the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (CAHPO) of all four countries and sets out ways in which both final year and middle year learners may choose to join the workforce in paid roles whilst enabling them to progress with their studies.

At the same time, HEE has also published guidance for England on how learners can expect to be supported, and HEIW for Wales and NES for Scotland. As and when guidance is issued for Northern Ireland and Scotland, it will also be made available.

England: https://www.hee.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/AHP%20student%20support%20guide%20Covid-19.pdf

Wales: https://heiw.nhs.wales/files/covid-19-student-support-guide-for-ahp-and-hcs/

Scotland: http://www.knowledge.scot.nhs.uk/media/CLT/ResourceUploads/4099791/8c4993da-b48c-47af-931f-630fcbaf6a83.pdf

As systems and processes are evolving all the time, colleagues are reminded to check these sites regularly for updates.

Freelance and Private Practice

What advice do you have for freelancers?

Government Advice

The Government has announced support for the self-employed, a direct cash grant of 80% of their profits, up to £2,500 per month for three months.

  • The scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. The scheme also applies to members of partnerships.
  • Grants will be paid in a single lump sum instalment covering all 3 months, and will start to be paid at the beginning of June.
  • HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational.
  • Those who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the scheme but will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are operating PAYE schemes.
  • Latest government advice for businesses and self employed.

The various help schemes:

Looking to be redeployed?

  • If you are a freelancer, looking to support NHS work and be redeployed during the pandemic, you can complete the survey embedded on this page so the NHS can understand how best to use your skill. 
  • If you're based in Wales and want to rejoin the NHS, visit this page.
  • If you would like to offer ad hoc shifts, consider signing up for NHS Bank Work. Many trusts and health boards have staff banks which you can find online. The England wide NHS Bank can be found here

BDA Support for Freelance dietitians

The BDA supports the recent government announcement to help self-employed professionals, however, as this support won’t be able to be accessed until early June, the BDA has taken the decision to extend further support to its Freelance Dietitians, by offering a 3-month membership payment break on their BDA membership from 1 April 2020. 

How can I apply?

To apply, please contact applications@bda.uk.com with the following:
•    Confirmation that you are a current member of the BDA Freelance Specialist Group
•    Confirmation that you are not in salaried employment, undertaking freelance work alongside a paid role, and that your taxable earnings in the last financial year were not above £50,000. NB If you do obtain work or employment and your income rises above this, you must inform us and this membership payment break will end at that point.

NB Please do not cancel any existing BDA payment/s at this time, as this 3-month membership payment break will be provided in the form of a monthly/one-off refund from the BDA (depending on how you currently pay for your BDA membership).

More information on the BDA's support.

Will I be classed as a key worker if I am in private practice?

No. At present you will only qualify as a key worker if you are working in the NHS. The Government has issued strong advice that children should not attend school or nursery unless their parents are key workers and even they should only do so if they have no viable alternative. If you return to the NHS to assist during this health emergency then you will become a key worker.

What support do you have for dietitians working in the sports sector/industry?

BDA support for Sports Nutrition Dietitians

As the sports sector and sports industry has been significantly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with all sporting events and much of the sectors day-to-day activities cancelled, the BDA has taken the decision to extend support to its Sports Nutrition Dietitians working in these fields. Support will mirror that offered to our freelancers and will be in the form of a 3-month membership payment break on their BDA membership (and Sports Nutrition Specialist Group Membership) from 1 April 2020.

How can I apply?

To apply, please contact applications@bda.uk.com with the following:
•    Confirmation that you are a current member of the BDA Sports Nutrition Specialist Group
•    Confirmation that you are not in salaried employment, undertaking a paid role, and that your taxable earnings in the last financial year were not above £50,000. NB If you do obtain work or employment and your income rises above this, you must inform us and this membership payment break will end at that point.

NB Please do not cancel any existing BDA payment/s at this time, as this 3-month membership payment break will be provided in the form of a monthly/one-off refund from the BDA (depending on how you currently pay for your BDA membership).

HCPC Temporary Register

What is the possible HCPC Temporary COVID-19 Register and how will it affect me?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the HCPC is working with the UK Government to create a COVID-19 temporary register of two parts, with dietitians being included in phase 2.

The HCPC’s intention is to ensure there are no regulatory barriers to the following two groups practising on a temporary basis:

  • Former registrants who have de-registered within the last three years.
  • Final year students, on UK approved programmes, who have completed all their clinical practice placements.

The BDA has already planned a process to help those in the groups above who may be contacted to join the register, please see FAQ's below which outline our process and support.

More information on this from the HCPC.

I’m a former registered dietitian who’s been contacted by the HCPC and added to the Covid-19 Temporary Register, how can the BDA help me?

Existing BDA retired/non practising members:

  • If you are an existing retired or non-practicing BDA member, we will upgrade your membership to BDA Full Membership free of charge.

Please simply contact applications@bda.uk.com providing evidence you’ve been added to the Covid-19 Temporary Register and once we’ve checked your eligibility, we will promptly process your Emergency BDA Membership.

Non-members:

  • If you are not an existing BDA member, we can provide you with BDA Emergency Membership for 6 months for just £100. This includes all of the same membership benefits as BDA full membership including Professional Indemnity Insurance and Trade Union support.

Please simply contact applications@bda.uk.com providing evidence you’ve been added to the Covid-19 Temporary Register and once we’ve checked your eligibility, we will process your BDA Emergency Membership.

I am a final year student who has been contacted by the HCPC and added to the COVID-19 Temporary Register, how can the BDA help me?

Providing you have completed all your clinical practice placements:

Existing BDA student members:

  • We will upgrade you to BDA Full Membership immediately for 6 months for just £100, refunding your student membership fee. This ensures you are provided with Professional Indemnity Insurance and Trade Union support.

Please simply contact applications@bda.uk.com providing evidence you’ve been added to the Covid-19 Temporary Register and once we’ve checked your eligibility, we will process your discounted BDA Full Membership.

Non-members:

  • If you are not an existing BDA student member, we can provide you with BDA Full Membership for 6 months for just £100. This includes all of the same membership benefits as BDA full membership including Professional Indemnity Insurance and Trade Union support.

Please simply contact applications@bda.uk.com providing evidence you’ve been added to the Covid-19 Temporary Register and once we’ve checked your eligibility, we will process your discounted BDA Full Membership.

HCPC Regulation 

What is being prepared to support AHPs to handle COVID-19?

The HCPC have published a joint letter with other regulatory bodies around how they will continue to regulate in light of COVID-19.

Keith Willet, NHS strategic incident director NHSEI, has also sent a letter to all NHS organisations to help them prepare, it will help you to see what may be asked of you if you work in the NHS.

What about HCPC Audits during the pandemic?

Members will understandably be concerned about how they can keep up to date with CPD or have time to submit profiles if chosen for audit at this time. Individuals should continue to comply with their CPD obligations, where time allows and if it is possible to do so.

However, in the current circumstances the HCPC has taken the decision to cancel the audit process for Physiotherapists as well as stop the audit process for other professions until further notice.

Please check with the HCPC COVID-19 page for the most up to date information. 

BDA Events and Services

Is the BDA planning to postpone or cancel any events?

We are cancelling all events and courses through to the end of April.

We will review May events onwards during April when we know more.

We will let all members, attendees and participants know if this situation changes.

Can I still contact the BDA?

As part of the government’s advice to restrict all non-essential travel and social contact, all BDA staff are now working from home. We want to reassure members that the BDA has appropriate and secure remote-working technology and processes in place to protect staff while still delivering what members need.

We remain contactable through all the regular channels such as phone, email and social media. So, please rest assured we are still offering our vital support services to our members. 

There is also a lot more information available for health professionals:

For public advice relating to nutrition and COVID-19, visit our public advice page.

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