This member update includes:
Updated sector guidance – return to routine appointments
New AIHHP, BAA, BSA and BSHAA guidance published today, 30 June, confirms that audiology providers in the UK can return to routine appointments.
The updated guidance is in response to the 19 June UK Chief Medical Officers’ statement which moved the UK from Covid-19 alert Level 4 (a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially) to Level 3 (a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation).
Today’s refreshed guidance also includes a RAG table to help practices plan for different Covid-19 alert levels at a more regional level, as recommended in section 3.5 of the NCHA’s 5 June guidance. For example
The NCHA said: “We welcome this updated guidance as it will help members meet a wider range of patients’ aural health and hearing needs during the pandemic. The update should also help providers plan for changes in local Covid-19 risk levels, and we would advise all members to learn lessons from the current situation in Leicester and have local protocols in place to ensure they know how to respond to local outbreaks during the pandemic”
As the sector re-opens for routine care, we advise members to perform an ongoing risk assessment and adhere to rigorous infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures. Members can do this by following our four stages to safe care which forms part of our Covid-19 resource hub.
Members who have any questions or need further support can email us at [email protected] or call us 020 7298 5110.
Social distancing update
As expected, last week the Prime Minister announced that from 4 July in England guidance would allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’, but only where it is not possible to stay two metres apart. The Stormont Executive also confirmed moving to a one-metre distance from Monday 29 June.
In community audiology settings, however, members are advised to continue following official sector guidance from the NHS/Health Service and professional bodies. For example, if NHS Test and Trace asks one member of staff to self-isolate their entire team is unlikely to have to self-isolate provided they follow strict IPC and PPE requirements as set out in our standard precautions guide.
We recommend members listen to 23.30min to 26.45min from this government briefing – although this conference only referred to the Test and Trace system in England, the same principles hold in all UK countries.
Audiology support for patients who are shielding
The NHS in England has published guidance on NHS care for patients who are shielding. In terms of audiology, the guidance says:
“Ensure patients continue to access regular checks, screening and treatment where needed, for both physical health and mental wellbeing. In specialties such as audiology, dentistry and eye care, careful consideration should be given to the benefits of intervention against the potential risks, if remote checks are not possible. These regular checks and treatments should form part of an individual’s care plan or health ‘passport’.”
Last week the Department of Health and Social Care also confirmed that, in response to the lower prevalence of Covid-19 in the community, people currently shielding in England could spend more time outside from 6 July. The goal is to end the need to shield by 31 July.
Covid-19: Air conditioning, fans and ventilation
As members prepare to re-open or expand hearing care services throughout the UK, it can be challenging to practise comfortably using PPE in hotter weather. With immaculate timing, last week the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) helpfully published a short guide on the use of air conditioning, fans and proper ventilation during the pandemic. Read the HSE guide.
Guidance on flexible furlough
The government has published two short ‘factsheets’ covering the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) and coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS). They include a summary of the schemes and how to claim. Read both factsheets.
Members who need more support and advice with the new flexible CJRS can email us at [email protected] or call us on 01244 687 602.
New law to help companies and directors
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 came into force on 26 June. The new law aims to reduce the burden on businesses during the pandemic and allow directors to focus efforts on helping companies through any challenging circumstances.
New arrangements include temporary easements for AGMs and temporarily suspending parts of insolvency law to support directors. They also introduce new restructuring tools to give companies more time to implement strategies that might help them survive a financial crisis during the pandemic.
Companies will also automatically receive an extension for confirmation statements, registrations of charges (mortgage) and event-driven filings, such as a change to a company’s directors or people with significant control.
Reminder on the tax status of grants
We remind members that grants from the various Covid-19 government support schemes are treated as taxable income where the business is within the scope of either Corporation Tax or Income Tax.
Payments made under schemes including the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) and the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS), for example, are both classified as taxable income. However, the level of any tax payable will depend on the overall year-end tax position of the business/individual.
NCHA returns to usual office hours
During the first phase of the pandemic the NCHA has been open seven days a week to support members. As the Covid-19 alert level has reduced, the NCHA will be returning to usual office hours from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and we will keep this under review as we progress through the pandemic.
Members can still access out-of-office support for HR and health and safety.