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Covid-19 (Coronavirus) UK Practitioner Guidance

Posted by admin at 11:12 on 10 Nov 2020


Firstly, the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA) would like to express their sincere understanding of the need for clarity regarding restrictions in being able to continue or return to work. The IFA are therefore signatories to a letter to Government from the Integrated Healthcare Collaborative (IHC) asking for clear guidance and calling for Governments to designate complementary, traditional and natural therapists as essential workers. Read below the current restrictions:

COVID Practioner Guidelines.jpg


Based on the advice we have received, IFA Registrants in England meet the definition  of  “other…health services, including services relating to mental health” contained in Section 47, Part 3 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020. You CAN therefore continue to provide aromatherapy, on a one-to-one basis to clients, for an identified mental or physical health condition or injury that is causing them pain, or having an adverse impact on their mobility or their quality of life. There is no requirement that the client be referred by a GP/ nurse/ physio etc, but you MUST ascertain necessity and evidence that your therapeutic intervention is supporting your client with their condition and be reflected and rationalised in your client records. This advice has taken into account that in Section 25E of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 practitioners on Accredited Registers, which the IFA is, are defined as engaged in work that includes the provision of healthcare.

Where can I work from?

From a Clinic 
Only if your place of work can be classified as a place of healthcare services, e.g. within another permitted healthcare professional’s premises, such as physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, etc. You may not work from premises that are entered through a business listed as required to close (e.g. within a gym). If your clinic is licensed with the council as medical then your also able to work from the premises as long as it complies with all the COVID guidelines as before.

From Home
Only if clients can access your facility without entering your living accommodation and it is COVID-secure. To access the IFA's ‘Returning to Work Guidance’ and 'Hygiene Secure Practice Guidance' please login to the members’ area of our website.

Mobile therapists will not be able to visit client’s homes to carry out a treatment unless you have received a direct referral from a statutory regulated health professional.

Where do I stand legally?

Some questions had arisen on massage, in regard to a reference within the advice on business closures to massage: ‘Personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close.’ “Massage parlour” means a public place and is not considered a health establishment whereas Massage Therapist is different. DHSC has referred us to the point below in terms of instances where personal care services such as massage ARE PERMITTED:

Personal Care facilities and close contact services

  • Non-medical acupuncture and other cosmetic services should not go ahead, but personal care services where required for medical reasons or prescribed by a qualified practitioner may continue. For example, massage prescribed for pain relief or for sports injuries, or cosmetic services for burn victims or those associated with cancer treatment. The guidance on safer working in the Close Contact Services should be followed.

DHSC colleagues have highlighted the potential for misunderstanding on massage to the Government Covid-19 policy team so that other departments such as BEIS can be made aware.

The Public Spaces rule means that more than two gathering is not allowed therefore home visits do not appear to be covered, nor a home treatment room, unless therapy room has separate access not through the home. However there is an exception for this under the rules so that may not be a problem - in the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 it references in 8 (2) and here are exceptions set out in regulation 11.

Regulation 11: “(3) Exception 2 is that the gathering is reasonably necessary— (a) for work purposes or for the provision of voluntary or charitable services;” – together with both legalisation, mobile working for health reasons is permissible.

As each persons situation is different we always recommend that you check with your local council and insurers. 

Alan Boswell state: “If people break the law then their insurance is normally invalid as they have performed a ‘criminal act’. If a therapist is working in accordance with Government rules then that’s fine and insurance will respond. If there is uncertainty on the Government rules then clarification should be obtained before treatments are undertaken.”

Essentially, you must justify why the treatment is taking place and that there is a medical reason for it, or you could be considered to have committed a criminal act and therefore would not be covered by your insurance.

What will happen after lockdown ends?

As you’ll be aware the UK is currently under a nationwide lockdown which is set to end 02nd December 2020, after which it is likely to revert back to local tier level lockdowns. If the local lockdown level regulations mirror the previous ones, then it may mean once again that aromatherapists could come under close contact services and, as such, could be forced to close by local authorities in tier 3 areas. This could mean that some of our registrants will be working during the current nationwide lockdown, but when that ends, may be forced to close during a local lockdown. In light of this, the IFA with it’s Integrated Healthcare Collaborative (IHC) colleagues, has written out to health ministers across the UK to highlight the importance that our practitioners be classed as essential workers, because of the contribution they make to healthcare, and because of any possible future restrictions as well as supporting the longer term profile of aromatherapy by Government health ministers. We will keep you informed as progress is made.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Executive has extended the 4-week "circuit-breaker" measures introduced on 16 October. Close contact services can resume by appointment (not on a drop-in basis ) on Friday 20 November. To view the Executives statement click here


In Scotland, the Strategic Framework published 23rd October 2020 sets out that under the Protection Levels Framework, close contact services carried out in a therapist’s own premises may operate in locations at levels 0-3, and mobile close contact services are permitted to provide services in people’s homes in levels 0-1. For a guide to Scotland’s  three-tier local restrictions system visit: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-54771868


In Wales, from 23rd October 2020 to 09th November 2020 it is not possible to provide aromatherapy treatments.

As things are changing rapidly we will continue to do our best to keep you informed, but please note it is important to look at the relevant government websites to be aware of any changes in your area.


IFA Lobbying Efforts

At the IFA we are constantly battling the terminology surrounding how aromatherapists are viewed as an essential part of the healthcare workforce.  This all forms part of a greater picture of to encourage the government to recognise aromatherapy as a key therapeutic intervention in healthcare. The IFA have stressed at both local council and national level, that the government should embrace aromatherapy to ease the mounting burden being placed on the NHS. We detailed our portfolio of charity projects integrating aromatherapy into various hospital and hospice settings and drew attention to various healthcare charities and NHS hospitals that refer to the IFA. We have raised key health issues affecting the country, discussed how these should be addressed, as well as proposing solutions to improve patient care. Our aim is for more equitable access to complementary, traditional and natural therapies for the general public and where appropriate, both within the NHS and outside. 

As you are aware, the IFA is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), a body accountable to parliament, which is the highest level of acknowledgement of the professionalism of the IFA. This accreditation applies to all those who come under our accredited register in the UK. This provides additional assurance that IFA registrants meet UK wide standards of patient safety and service quality and has also meant that our therapists in England can return to work during the current lockdown (with limitations). So if any of your clients are a little nervous about coming to see you during these uncertain times, you can tell them that you are IFA registered and explain what that means in terms of safety and high standards of care. To echo previous sentiments from the Aromatherapy Times magazine, it is really important that registrants reflect the PSA accreditation in your marketing. In the members' area you can download updated descriptors for your use. 

To represent our members interests before decision-making bodies and to strengthen the recognition of aromatherapy as a true complementary modality, we are also part of the PSA Collaborative working group - a community committed to high standards within health and social care, which provides additional insights and resources. Collectively, we have been addressing the powers that be in regards to the fact that aromatherapists are being grouped under ‘massage parlour’ rather than health worker, which limits and restricts the potential for our members to practice during these times and thereafter. The PSA’s colleagues within the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have highlighted the potential for misunderstanding on this issue and is pushing for other divisions within Government such as BEIS to be made aware and to look to clarify this terminology issue. 

In addition the IFA is also part of the Integrated Healthcare Collaborative (IHC) and is a signatory to a letter to number 10 Downing Street asking for clarity on what will happen when lockdown ends and calling for Government to designate complementary, traditional and natural therapists as essential workers.

COV19 Risk Assessment Certificate Courses

We understand a lot of you have been asking about courses that will provide you with a certificate on completion to display in your place of work when you can return to work. Please see below examples of free online courses you can take that provide a certificate in preparation:

Government Guidance 

Keeping workers and clients safe during COVID 19 in close contact services

Further Reading:

For more information

To access the IFA's ‘Returning to Work Guidance’, 'Hygiene Secure Practice Guidance', 'Government Financial Assistance' guidelines, sample client disclaimer, notice, risk assessment and further additional resources please login to the members’ area of our website.