Protocol for seeing clients – Covid-19 Revised 9th and 21st October (in anticipation of reduced time between appointments)


Covid-10 is a notifiable disease and therefore if The Centre, or any of the practitioners working at The Centre, is contacted by the clinical contact tracing team, The Centre and/or practitioners will need to give out names and contact details (phone and email, no other information) of any clients deemed at risk due to the over-riding duty to Public Health.

Guidance changes regularly and often at short notice. Please bear with us if a change to guidance means we need to move or change your appointment.

Please note that The Centre is a healthcare facility for the purposes of Test and Trace and the contact is The Centre, rather than the individual practitioner. By providing these details to Test and Trace, The Centre is able to access tailored advice which will ensure we can continue to provide treatment for those who need it while also protecting clients, staff and practitioners.

This is intended to be a working document, based on best practice and current knowledge (WHO, PHE, HSE). It has been developed based on information provided by the Institute of Osteopathy, cross contamination training provided by FHT but also from looking at other professional situations including dentistry and blood transfusion service where practitioners need to get closer than 2 metres in order to deliver treatment. The aim it to mitigate the risks of transmission of Covid-19 while also recognising that no protocol can completely eliminate that risk.

Initially, the Institute of Osteopathy was recommending full PPE i.e. scrubs, gown, disposable apron, mask, visor and gloves and masks for clients while the blood transfusion used social distancing and masks for staff only. Until very recently dentists were not allowed to perform any procedure that produces an aerosol, even though they already wear masks and glasses to protect themselves. So there does appear to be a marked difference in the interpretation of the same set of rules, which are also liable to change at short notice. More recently, for instance, massage therapists, initially allowed to work in visors, were required to wear masks in addition, with 2 days’ notice.

I’ve divided the protocol into sections to try to separate out the different areas that need to be considered but it is long and likely to increase as we increase both types and numbers of practitioners.

The Centre

  1. Sign on door saying The Centre is only open to pre-booked clients
  2. Automatic dispenser for hand sanitiser, table with sign asking clients to use this to wash their hands and then use the bell to let the practitioner know they’ve arrived
  3. Unless previously agreed with the individual practitioner, all clients must wear a mask or face covering during their appointment at The Centre. Masks should be worn while at The Centre and only removed after leaving – NB wash hands before removing mask carefully, and then wash hands again after removing. Masks should be managed carefully to avoid risk of contamination – disposed of or washed, as appropriate
  4. Clients will be met at the bottom of the stairs by practitioner and temperature may be checked before admission
  5. Door at top of the stairs to be propped open
  6. Clients will be shown straight into treatment rooms
  7. Toilet facilities to be available as required – sign on toilet and wall asking clients to close the toilet seat before flushing to reduce risk of transmission
  8. There is a hand sanitiser at the top of the stairs and clients are encouraged to use this before they enter the stairwell to reduce risk of cross contamination. Where one treatment room is in use: Client to be shown out directly. Where more than one treatment room is in use: Client will be shown out by practitioner or escorted to reception. Receptionist will take fees, book next appointment and ensure client can leave safely. Reception has been set up to allow for two clients to sit, pay, etc and allow for social distancing. Receptionist will clean surfaces after client leaves, including chair, iZettle, etc.
  9. All surfaces within treatment rooms to include couch, chairs, table, tablet, iZettle to be cleaned between clients
  10. Up until now, all surfaces from front door to treatment room have been cleaned between every client entrance and exit. As the practice gets busier and there are more calls on the receptionist’s time, this is unlikely to be sustainable. Therefore a second automatic hand sanitiser has been installed at the top of the stairs for clients to use prior to entering the stairwell to minimise the risk of cross contamination in the stairwell. All surfaces in the stairwell will be cleaned regularly, a minimum of once an hour by the receptionist. If a client is deemed to be particularly vulnerable by either the client or the practitioner, the stairwell will be cleaned before they enter and leave by either the practitioner or receptionist.
  11. Where clients have used the toilet, this will also be cleaned between clients, where practical, and regularly during the day, when not. When more than one treatment room is in use, the priority will be to ensure each client can arrive and leave safely and the toilet will be cleaned as soon as possible after use
  12. Carpets in treatment rooms to be steam cleaned daily.
  13. Entrance to The Centre will be limited to practitioners, their clients, the Practice Manager and staff and all should use hand sanitiser on arrival. If anyone else needs to access The Centre, e.g. workmen, they will be escorted by a practitioner or the Practice Manager at all times and the Practice Manager will be responsible for ensuring they comply with this protocol and also for ensuring that The Centre has been cleaned in accordance with this protocol after their visit.
  14. In addition to the cleaning conducted above, The Practice Manager is responsible for ensuring that The Centre has a thorough clean each week, according to the cleaning schedule. This includes steam cleaning all carpets in treatment rooms and communal areas, including stairwell and entrance.


  1. All new clients will be pre-screened by reception prior to booking an appointment. Individual practitioners may also need to contact clients both to determine both their risk of exposure to Covid-19 but also to ascertain that face to face treatment is both indicated and necessary. Wherever possible, as much of the case-taking will be undertaken during this telephone / online consultation to minimise the time that clients need to attend The Centre. In line with government advice on facial coverings in confined areas, clients will be asked to wear a mask or face covering when attending The Centre, ideally water resistant as this is required by iO to meet their standards. Only clients who pass this screening process will be seen at The Centre at this time and practitioners have to abide by The Centre’s risk assessment in determining this. Clients will be given instructions of who to contact if they develop symptoms of Covid-19 or are unable to attend for any other reason and asked to inform The Centre if they develop symptoms within 2-14 days of attending The Centre (dependant on practitioner/modality). Depending on the modality/practitioners, clients may be asked to sign a consent form confirming that this has been explained to them and / or confirm that they do not have symptoms of Covid-19 before the start of each treatment session. As the situation develops, some practitioners are reverting to case taking within the consultation. In such cases, clients will be screened for symptoms on arrival, as all other clients, and case taking will take place in the treatment room. This is at the discretion of the individual practitioner.
  2. All current clients who wish to attend The Centre and have not attended since before lockdown, will be asked to confirm they are well when they book appointments. The current system will be explained and clients will be asked to attend at their appointment time wearing a mask or face covering (these can be provided, where necessary). Dependant on practitioner and modality they may also receive a pre-appointment screening call (see 1) and be asked to sign a consent form.
  3. Clients are asked to attend on time as there is no reception or waiting facilities available so clients cannot arrive early.
  4. Clients booked in appropriately to allow for cleaning between clients.
  5. Only one person to attend per appointment, unless the practitioner deems it necessary for more than one person from the same household to attend, e.g. parent and child, someone requiring assistance to attend etc.
  6. The reception area is set up to ensure two clients can be in reception at a distance of 2m from both each other and reception to allow clients to pay, book new appointments and leave safely. Clients may be asked to wait in the treatment room after treatment if this proves necessary to ensure clients do not overlap in reception or communal areas.


  1. Practitioners will use the hand sanitiser on the way in.
  2. Practitioners will change clothes before starting and clothes will be bagged up securely.
  3. Practitioners will wear appropriate PPE as stipulated by their professional body. All practitioners will wear face coverings, preferably moisture resistant face masks, independent of any other requirements.
  4. Practitioners will be responsible for ensuring necessary surfaces are cleaned from front door to treatment room prior to seeing their first client and cleaning and airing their treatment room as necessary between clients.
  5. All pillows used are covered in plastic and will be sprayed with viricidal solution between clients. Pillowcases can be used as long as they are changed between clients and the pillow sprayed with viricidal spray between clients. Pillowcases will be bagged up before cleaning for the next client.
  6. Where more than one treatment room is in use during a session, practitioners need to be mindful of timings of all treatment rooms to ensure social distancing for both clients and practitioners. In general, clients will leave directly or via reception. If reception is busy, clients should wait in the treatment room with the door open and the receptionist will advise once reception is available.
  7. At the end of the session, practitioners are responsible for cleaning their room thoroughly including steam cleaning the carpet. Any rubbish should be placed in the bin and the bin should be tied up, dated and placed the cupboard in reception. The Practice Manager is responsible for ensuring rubbish is held for 72 hours prior to disposal.
  8. Practitioners should change out of clinic clothes and bag these up securely.
  9. If, after reception has closed, practitioners need to use any of the communal areas, they need to clean any surfaces as appropriate.
  10. Practitioners are responsible for removing and washing any pillow cases and scrubs/clothes appropriately.
  11. From 1st September, The Centre will revert back to paper diaries. Where possible, reception staff will advise practitioners of any changes to their diary at the end of the day, with particular reference to new patient bookings that may need screening prior to appointment.
  12. Other practitioner’s professional bodies might require different protocols and it will be necessary to ensure that these do not conflict.

Other issues

  1. If a practitioner or a member of their household develops Covid-19 symptoms, they and their families will self-isolate for 7/14 days in line with government recommendations. If the practitioner tests negative for Covid-19, they can return to work as soon as they have recovered, assuming their household members are also well and have tested negative (where tested). Practitioners who have worn PPE in accordance with this protocol and that of their professional body are highly unlikely to have passed it on to their clients but will, as a courtesy, inform any clients seen in the previous 2-14 days (dependant on practitioner/modality).
  2. If a client becomes obviously unwell with symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 such as a temperature, dry cough etc, during treatment then they will be advised to get tested and required to leave immediately. The practitioner will advise the practice manager and the practitioner will cancel any further clients, undertake a deep clean and remove themselves from the premises. They and their families will then isolate for 14 days. If the client tests negative for Covid-19, the practitioner can return to work. Osteopaths and chiropodists who have used PPE in accordance with this protocol and that of their professional body do not need to self isolate as they are primary healthcare professionals.
  3. If a client advises The Centre that they have developed symptoms within 2-14 days of visiting The Centre (dependant on practitioner/modality), they will be advised to get tested and asked to inform The Centre of the results. The practitioner and their families may need to isolate for 14 days, dependant on the guidance of their professional body. Under this protocol, clients are escorted from the front door to the treatment room and escorted out via reception. At no point are they expected to be in contact with other clients and where they are (e.g. in reception) they will be at least 2m apart. On the rare occasion that clients may come into contact with other clients, they will both be wearing face coverings, both will have been screened and any close contact will be necessarily brief (e.g. passing each other in the hall). Therefore the risk to other clients is minimal and, under current guidance, there is no need to contact other clients who have visited The Centre either at the same time or since. Osteopaths who have used PPE in accordance with this guidance and that of their professional body do not need to self isolate. The iO has suggested that in these circumstances, practitioners should inform clients as a matter of courtesy but this is currently under review given that it will raise anxiety levels when the risk to clients is very low.


The protocol is aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to the virus for everyone entering the practice but particularly the risk of spread from client to client. There is still a slight risk that a client could pass it to a practitioner but, based on current understanding, it seems unlikely as the practitioner will be wearing a water-resistant mask and following strict protocols regarding clothing, hand washing etc. Throughout it must be remembered that The Centre is not sitting in isolation and clients are exposed wherever they interact with others and some people even seem to develop symptoms after several weeks isolating alone at home, adhering to the highest possible hygiene standards (e.g. washing shopping or quarantining) by mechanisms that are still unclear.

At present, people are not being asked to isolate unless directly in contact with someone with Covid-19 symptoms but that may change with the move to track and trace so the current protocol anticipates that.

Basic masks protect others rather than the wearer which is why iO is recommending water-resistant masks which protect the wearer. However, if both people are wearing basic masks, then each is protecting the other. It is unclear how easy it will be for both clients and practitioners to obtain sufficient quantities of water-resistant masks in which case, any mask would be deemed better than no mask. The Centre will also have a supply of visors which can be used in any situation where they are considered necessary and these could be used in conjunction with basic masks too.