As we all know, England is currently under its second lockdown to help stem the spread of COVID-19. This means that all “non-essential” businesses have had to close. However, as medical providers are able to stay open, this provides a loophole which some aesthetics practices may use to justify staying open.
Whilst we have decided to close our training academy and clinics until 2 December, in line with government regulations, there are valid arguments on both sides of this debate.
We at Harley Academy believe there are a number of considerations to review when deciding whether to keep aesthetics practices open during lockdown…
Can you contribute to minimising the risk of COVID spreading if you open?
The main reason given for imposing the second lockdown was to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This was done by limiting people’s movement via transport restrictions and the mandatory closure of all “non-essential” businesses. Individuals who genuinely need to leave the house, eg they’re unable to work from home or they’re collecting food supplies, have been encouraged to use the government’s NHS Test and Trace facility.
Aesthetics practices are largely considered non-essential, given the procedures are elective and non-urgent. However, where practitioners are healthcare professionals, such as a doctor, dentist or nurse, they can fall under the “medical model”. Despite not being in the spirit of the reason why medical practices are allowed to remain open during lockdown, technically aesthetic treatments can be carried out..
If you do choose to open your practice, remember that staff and patients still have to travel to and from the clinic. This increases their chances both of contracting and passing on coronavirus.
They may also need to stop to grab some food or a drink on the way, further exposing themselves. It is not just the risk posed by other people they come into contact with either; contaminated surfaces, on public transport for instance, are another consideration.
You may wish to carry out clinical consultations and follow-up appointments via video call to minimise in-person interactions.
Is it safe for your staff and patients to be in a clinical setting during lockdown?
As long as all the latest protocols are observed with regards safety, sanitation and the wearing of appropriate PPE, it should be safe to be in a clinical setting during lockdown.
Where possible, in addition to following the established guidance, increasing ventilation can be immensely beneficial.
Include questions in your clinical consultation which allow you to assess a potential patient’s risk of having or being exposed to COVID-19. If the patient is high risk or could be infected, it is inadvisable to treat them, at least at that time, unless it is an emergency. If this is the case, extra precautions should be taken. These include wearing a face shield, eye protection and an FRSM type IIR mask at all times throughout the patient’s appointment.
One of the main risks you are likely to encounter in this scenario is asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus. For this reason, if you decide to open your practice, you may wish to consider taking part in the government’s NHS Test and Trace programme.
How safely can you carry out aesthetic treatments during lockdown?
As long as practitioners and their clinical settings adhere to the most recent government advice and recommendations from bodies such as the British Medical Association and the World Health Organisation, carrying out treatments during lockdown is unlikely to affect staff or patient safety.
We have already mentioned the risks of traveling to and from the clinic plus coming into contact with asymptomatic coronavirus patients, which obviously apply here too.
One further consideration with regards to patient safety relates to the toll lockdown can take on people’s mental health. If you decide to open your aesthetics practice during lockdown, ensure you take extra time to complete an in-depth patient assessment before committing to treat them.
Spend time establishing their current state of mind and why they want to have the treatment they are looking for. Also, why do they want to have it right now, rather than waiting until after lockdown? Bear in mind that any existing mental health concerns may be exacerbated by lockdown and could become even worse should complications from their treatments arise. Remember, if you are in any doubt, it is fine and ethical to either defer treatment until you believe they are ready, or to refuse to treat them.
Will opening your aesthetics practice help to relieve any potential burden on the NHS?
Obviously aesthetics treatments such as non-medical botulinum toxin injections and dermal fillers are not available on the NHS. The NHS does, however, end up treating a number of patients with complications from poorly-executed or self-administered injectables.
Reportedly, DIY tweakments are on the rise during lockdown so it’s likely they will be seeing more of these cases.
As such, there is an argument that having aesthetics practices open during lockdown would prevent people taking matters into their own hands. It would also offer alternative solutions to the NHS if medical professionals were available to correct any such complications or “botch jobs”.
It is true some complications may fall under the “emergency treatment” remit, removing any ethical dilemma associated with opening your clinic. There are those which could technically wait until after lockdown for treatment, however.
As you can see, deciding whether or not to open your practice during lockdown is an ethical decision with arguments on both sides. What conclusion have you come to? Do you believe aesthetic medicine professionals should be allowed to open? Let us know by leaving us a comment on the Harley Academy Instagram account.