This information aims to support registrants in understanding how to apply Standard one of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They require you to promote and protect the interests of service users and carers, in particular by:
- treating service users and carers with respect;
- making sure you have consent;
- challenging discrimination; and
- maintaining appropriate boundaries.
Working in a challenging environment
The current COVID-19 pandemic creates unusual challenges for the healthcare workforce.
In usual circumstances, healthcare professionals focus on doing all they can for their service users, and are able to provide: information about the condition(s) the service user has; the appropriate treatment they recommend, and largely a reasonably accurate prognosis.
Much is unknown about COVID-19: knowledge about symptoms is evolving; approaches to care and interventions are developing and changing; and prognosis can often be hard to determine.
The HCPC standards set out clearly what is expected of healthcare professionals, but we recognise that much of the care and treatment you are able to provide depends on having accurate, timely and available information.
In the current circumstances where that is ever-changing, and sometimes not available, you will likely have to make difficult decisions.
Whilst we expect you to follow current guidance, we understand the complexities of doing so in the current climate. We encourage you do to all that you reasonably can and advise you to keep a clear record of any decisions you make.
Should any concerns be raised about your practice, we will take account of:
- the circumstances and context you were working in;
- the approach you took to decision making; and
- relevant resource, guidelines and protocols in place at the time.
This position is set out in the joint statement from Chief Executives of statutory regulators of health and care professionals.
Involving service users in their care
In recent years, there has been positive progress made to ensure patient-centred care; safeguarding service users’ rights to be involved in decision making.
Whilst you are working in an environment where information is constantly changing, our understanding of this virus is limited, and there are shortages of resources including life-saving equipment, difficult decisions need to be made quickly.
It may not always be possible to provide the full range of care and treatment to all service users, and you may not have all the answers they need and want.
You should take all reasonable steps to inform service users about your approach to treatment, and involve them where possible, but context and circumstances may reduce your ability to do this. As set out above, if any concerns are raised about your approach in this regard, we will take account of the circumstances.
Making sure you have consent
The Standards of conduct, performance and ethics outline your obligations in relation to consent:
5.2 You must only disclose confidential information if:
- you have permission;
- the law allows this;
- it is in the service user’s best interests; or
- it is in the public interest, such as if it is necessary to protect public safety or prevent harm to other people.
For further information about consent, please see our Data protection in exceptional times information.
The Standards of conduct, performance and ethics clearly outline our expectations of you in this regard:
1.5 You must not discriminate against service users, carers or colleagues by allowing your personal views to affect your professional relationships or the care, treatment or other services that you provide.
1.6 You must challenge colleagues if you think that they have discriminated against, or are discriminating against, service users, carers and colleagues.
We do not expect you to do anything differently in regard to the above two standards during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maintaining appropriate boundaries
The Standards of conduct, performance and ethics clearly outline our expectation of you in this regard:
1.7 You must keep your relationships with service users and carers professional.
Trust in the professions we regulate is important now more than ever given service users and carers are extremely scared and vulnerable. We therefore expect you to continue to maintain appropriate boundaries.