ACPPLD National Executive Committee response to the COVID -19 pandemic March 2020.

The ACPPLD recommend that the specialist learning disability physiotherapist’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic is to provide support and advice for adults with a learning disability and their network of care to:

Promote good physical health and mental well-being.

Monitor for deterioration in health.

Protect people from infection.

Reduce demand on primary healthcare.

Prevent hospital admissions and support safe discharges.

Provide essential physiotherapy intervention based on a risk assessment.

 Specialist learning disability physiotherapists need to continue to advocate for adults with a learning disability and their network of care to ensure equity of care based on health need and outcome.   

The ACPPLD advice to specialist learning disability physiotherapists is to:

  • Cease all non-essential physiotherapy to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
  • Identify and monitor adults with a learning disability who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19; who would be unable to tolerate an acute hospital admission; and/or who require support to follow government guidance.
  • Maintain and establish staffing capacity to offer essential physiotherapy interventions including:

    indirectsupport - such as telephone referral screening, welfare checks, secondary health liaison, advice and onward referrals.

    direct contact where the physiotherapist, in collaboration with the service user and their network of care, consider the benefits of intervention is greater than the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Where direct contact is required, the physiotherapist must follow government guidance to reduce risk of transmission such as hand hygiene, maintaining safe distances and appropriate PPE.

    NB: Essential interventions are likely to change over time as prolonged social isolating impacts on the physical presentation of adults with a learning disability.

  • Enable a coordinated response with partner agencies including Social Care; Mental Health in Learning Disability Services and Learning Disability Liaison nurses through the development of links and pathways to address risks and concerns, and to alert of positive or suspected COVID-19 cases.
  • Produce and disseminate accessible information related to COVID 19 and social distancing that aims to raise awareness of and manage the impact of the pandemic on physiotherapy related problems such as falls, posture and respiratory health.
  • Contribute to or lead urgent best interest decisions when appropriate, including the development of advance care and escalation of treatment plans

The local response, is likely to depend on service demand and the resources available. As a result, there will be variations in how specialist learning disability physiotherapists are able to respond to this pandemic across the United Kingdom.

The ACPPLD acknowledge that the role of the specialist learning disability physiotherapist is likely to evolve as the pandemic progresses. Specialist learning disability physiotherapy services will need to monitor the guidance and recommendations nationally and locally then adapt their approach accordingly. 

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