Contact tracing is key to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. In this piece, the GCC investigates the impact of the Test and Trace/Protect service may have upon chiropractors who have resumed face-to-face treatments with patients.
Over the past nine months coronavirus has spread rapidly throughout the world. We now know that this is because it is highly infectious, because symptoms can take several days to appear, and because many people are asymptomatic and can pass it on without ever realising they had it.
The NHS Test and Trace service (previously Track and Trace, and known as Test and Protect in Scotland) is a key part of the UK’s strategy for fighting coronavirus. Effectively, it is contact tracing - a well-established method for controlling the transmission of infectious diseases.
How contact tracing works
After someone tests positive for COVID-19, their details are sent to Public Health England. To help identify others who may have been infected, the patient is asked for information on who they have recently had close contact with.
The NHS then gets in touch with those close contacts and asks them to self-isolate and take a test, to help prevent the spread of the virus.
A ‘close’ contact means someone you have had face-to-face contact with:
within 1 metre for 1 minute or longer
within 2 metres for 15 minutes
travelling in a small vehicle; or
sitting close to someone on a plane, train, coach or ferry journey.
For chiropractors who have returned to providing face-to-face treatments, Test and Trace may affect how you operate, as well as how you use your patients’ personal data.
Note that the rules may vary for chiropractors operating in areas with renewed lockdown measures. We recommend checking with your local council for more information.
If you contract COVID-19
If you or anyone in your household develops symptoms, you should follow the Government’s stay-at-home guidance and get tested. You should also consider informing patients with whom you have had close contact, that you have symptoms.
If requested by NHS Test and Trace, you will have to hand over details of patients you have seen in person since developing symptoms, as well as in the seven days prior. These details include the name, phone number, email address, whether they are over 18 years of age, and how and where the contact occurred.
For transparency, you should inform your patients who attend face-to-face treatments that their information may be shared with the Test and Trace service. It is advisable to also include this information in your Privacy Notice. You can find guidance on Track and Trace Privacy Notice here. More information on how data is collected and used for tracing purposes is available here.
If you wear appropriate PPE throughout your in-person appointments, you will not be considered a close contact of your patients. This means wearing a mask, apron and gloves at all times throughout the visit, with no breaches. Whether to wear a visor depends on the risk assessment outcome – and risk assessments should be undertaken by all practising chiropractors on a regular basis.
If a patient contracts COVID-19
You may be contacted by the Test and Trace service, by text or email, if one of your patients has contracted the virus.
If you wore appropriate PPE throughout all contact with the patient, you will not be considered a close contact and do not need to self-isolate.
If appropriate PPE was not worn, you must self-isolate for 14 days.
It is critical to be aware of the potential scams around contact tracing. Fraudsters on occasion pose as official contact tracers, looking to gain access to personal details and/or persuading victims to hand over money.
Legitimate contact tracing requests will come by text from ‘NHStracing’, or by phone from 0300 0135 000, and will never ask for payment or bank details.
During this difficult and uncertain time for healthcare practitioners, it’s vital that chiropractors follow best practice and deal with any encounters with COVID-19 swiftly, accurately and professionally. For up-to-date information and guidance for chiropractors, please visit our dedicated page on practising during COVID-19.
Let’s work together to keep our profession and our patients as safe as possible throughout this pandemic.