This information aims to support registrants in understanding how to apply Standard two of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This standard requires registrants to communicate appropriately and effectively:
- with service users and carers;
- with colleagues; and
- on social media and networking sites.
Service users and carers
The Standards of conduct performance and ethics outline what registrants must do when communicating with service users and carers:
2.1 You must be polite and considerate.
2.2 You must listen to service users and carers and take account of their needs and wishes.
2.3 You must give service users and carers the information they want or need, in a way they can understand.
2.4 You must make sure that, where possible, arrangements are made to meet service users’ and carers’ language and communication needs.
There are a number of challenges you are likely to face in communicating with service users and carers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Service users and carers will likely have heightened levels of anxiety and stress at this time, particularly if they have confirmed/suspected COVID-19. This may impact their ability to communicate appropriately with you, and is something you should be mindful of when engaging with them. This does not mean you should tolerate unacceptable abuse.
- As you adapt your practice, you must make sure you explain your approach to infection control and personal protective equipment to service users or carers at the earliest opportunity. This could include information about how your adapted practice may limit the kinds of treatment you can provide – whether remotely or in person. You can find further information on infection control on our website
- Non-verbal communication (body language and tone) is an important part of exchanging information, and is often vital in establishing trust. Personal protective equipment (PPE) significantly reduces the ability for service users to see body language, in particular facial expression. You should be mindful of this when treating service users and, wherever possible, adapt your communication style appropriately.
- Adapting your communication style is especially important if you are working with a service user who is deaf or has hearing loss. Many rely on visual cues which can be lost are lost when someone is wearing PPE. Action on Hearing Loss have developed some tips for health and care professionals when communicating with people with hearing difficulties which registrants should consider.
- Many carers and family members will not be able to be present with service users during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is likely you will need to update them remotely. Some of the advice in our High level principles for good practice in remote consultations and prescribing might be helpful in considering how to approach this. You can also get in touch with your professional body for further advice and support. You can find a list of professional bodies on our website.
The Standards of conduct performance and ethics indicate the requirements for registrants in communicating with colleagues:
2.5 You must work in partnership with colleagues, sharing your skills, knowledge and experience where appropriate, for the benefit of service users and carers.
2.6 You must share relevant information, where appropriate, with colleagues involved in the care, treatment or other services provided to a service user.
These standards are important in practice given there are typically many instances where a service user moves from the care of one healthcare professional to another, sometimes with varying levels of education and occupational training.
Important information needs to be shared with colleagues to ensure continuity of care, and so collaboration and good record keeping are vital to ensuring patient safety isn’t compromised.
This is especially important during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Increased workloads and stress levels are likely to erode individuals’ ability to communicate well. We have issued information on supervision which issues further advice on this area.
We have also developed some resources on wellbeing to support you and colleagues in managing your health and wellbeing during this time.
Furthermore, many former registrants and students will be working in the NHS to help manage the pandemic with varying levels of knowledge, skills and experience. Healthcare professionals need to support each other and work together through these challenges.
Social media and networking sites
The Standards of conduct, performance and ethics set out the obligation to ‘…use all forms of communication appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites’ (Standard 2.7) As outlined in our social media blog post, social media has some clear benefits to health and care professionals.
It helps develop individuals’ skills and knowledge, allows them to network with other professionals, helps the public understand what they do, and raises the profile of their profession. However, it is important that you use social media in a responsible way and follow the principles set out in our guidance.
During the COVID-19 pandemic it will be even more important to think before you post.
There is an increased interest in the social media outputs from healthcare professionals currently. It is important to make sure that any information you are sharing comes from a reputable source and is well informed.