FAQs about the Coronavirus

With an increasing amount of media attention on the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) members are starting to ask what they should do if they have concerns about its impact on their practice. This guidance is in response to the questions we've received.

Should I be taking any precautions now to protect me or my clients?

We would recommend reading through the NHS guidance on coronavirus for general information about the virus, what you can be doing to prevent the spread of the virus and what to do if you worried that you might have symptoms.

A colleague has returned from a trip to a country with cases of coronavirus. Do I need to let my clients know?

The NHS guidance on coronavirus covers what you should do if you've recently returned from a country where there are cases of coronavirus. The advice varies depending on the country you've been to.

We have an ethical duty to prevent harm to clients, however it's important to strike a balance between taking appropriate precautions while not causing undue concern as some of your clients may feel increasingly anxious as the media coverage increases.

What should I do if I contract the virus?

The Ethical Framework has a section that specifically looks at the unplanned ending of clinical work.

“Any unplanned breaks due to illness or other causes will be managed in ways to minimise inconveniencing clients and, for extended breaks, may include offering to put clients in touch with other practitioners.” (Good Practice, point 41)

The Ethical Framework also commits members to make plans for who will contact their clients if they are unable to because of serious illness. This is sometimes referred to as a making a clinical will.

Practitioners need to ensure that their “wellbeing is sufficient to sustain the quality of their work” (Commitment 2d) so you need to pay attention to self-care and take steps to ensure that, if you have to take breaks from practice, your clients are informed, supported and referred to other appropriate services if needed.

How to identifying clients to the NHS if you're diagnosed with coronavirus?

As discussed above, you may want to revisit your contract with your clients.

Your existing contract may refer to the limits of confidentiality relating to the balance of public interest. Public interest is the general welfare and rights of the public that should be recognised, protected and advanced. Disclosures in the public interest, based on the common law, are made where this is essential to prevent a serious and imminent threat to public health, national security, the life of the individual or a third party, or to prevent or detect serious crime.

You could explain to your clients that this clause may become relevant if you contract the virus and are obliged to inform the NHS of people you've been in contact with. In this case, you may need to share their name and contact details but not the context in which you know them. However, they may be contacted by the NHS.

If you want to separate this out to make it clearer to clients, you could add a coronavirus contingency clause, stating that confidentiality will be broken if necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health.

Contact Us

If you have a question relating to coronavirus and your work with the bpf, please email communications@bpf-psychotherapy.org.uk.

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