COVID-19: HIW’s response

Our Deputy Chief Executive Alun Jones has written to all our registered settings outlining how we’ve responded to the Cornonavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Read his letter below.

Dear Provider,

I am writing to let you know about some changes that Healthcare Inspectorate Wales have made and are making to the way that we work and answer some questions you may have as healthcare services. These changes are in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The changes affect how we do our job, perform our statutory functions and support healthcare organisations to keep their staff and the public safe during this time. The changes and steps we are taking are to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and to best carry out our duties to monitor, regulate and inspect healthcare services in Wales.

The steps we have taken so far are outlined below:

  • At Healthcare Inspectorate Wales we are pausing some outward facing operational activities and focusing on maintaining only essential statutory and regulatory duties. This will help to ensure that we do not place any additional pressure on healthcare staff and services.
  • For the foreseeable future we are pausing all our work that may impact on frontline services and their staff. This includes pausing all routine inspections of NHS and independent services. However, we will continue to monitor and follow up on any significant concerns regarding the safety and quality of care.

What we are continuing to do

  • We will continue to monitor intelligence relating to healthcare in Wales and use this to identify patterns and concerns. We will still take urgent inspections and actions if we feel there is a significant risk to healthcare service users.
  • We will continue to meet and exercise our essential statutory duties regarding the regulation of Ionising Radiation (Medical Equipment) Regulations. However, we will be suspending inspection activity until further notice. Please see the full joint response from inspectorates on our website.
  • We will continue to deliver the second opinion appointed doctor service, however, this service will be delivered remotely to ensure we are playing our part in ensuring social distancing to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and others.
  • We will continue to work with key stakeholders and partners to ensure we can monitor the quality and safety of healthcare services in Wales. This will including taking action where needed to protect the public.

Deployment of clinical and non-clinical staff

  • We have already released one senior staff member who was a registered clinical professional currently on secondment with us from the NHS, to allow them to return to their substantive position.
  • We are also continually monitoring the situation in the NHS and other healthcare settings and we will be releasing clinically professionals who are substantively employed by us to support frontline services where needed.
  • We are working hard to support our colleagues in Welsh Government departments who are experiencing additional pressure during these unprecedented times. So far we have a number of full time substantive staff members working directly on the Welsh government response to COVID-19.

We understand that this is a difficult and challenging time for many healthcare services and we endeavor not to add to your burden and support you through this time. We have received lots of queries and we will aim to answer some of these below:

Is HIW open?

We are still open for business but our staff are all working from home to meet the government recommendations and to protect their health and wellbeing and that of others. This means there are a few changes in the way that we deliver our outward facing services.

As our staff are not in the office at the moment, there may be a delay in reading post. There are a few ways you can get in touch these include:

  • Visiting our website.
  • If you would prefer you can also call us you can do this by calling 0300 062 8163.
  • Or by sending an email to HIW@gov.wales
  • You can also keep up to date with our work by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Will fees be delayed or waived in light of COVID-19 and is there any financial support available for independent providers?

Annual registration fees due from 1 April 2020 will be deferred until later in the year. You may still be invoiced, but we will not collect payment at this time. Settings with any outstanding fees from prior to this date will be contacted directly.

Details on financial support for businesses affected by COVID-19 is available on the Welsh Government website. We are not able to offer advice on financial support available to you.

Is it safe for your service stay open?

This is not something HIW can advise you on. We would direct you to the official public health and government websites and their sections on advice relating to COVID-19. These outlines exactly which businesses and services are able to stay open and deliver services during the pandemic. The overwhelming message from Government is that people should stay at home unless absolutely necessary, you should do everything you can to encourage people to follow this advice.

We are working with our colleagues in other areas of Welsh Government to ensure that any guidance and information for you as providers is disseminated. We will assist with this dissemination if required.

Please see the below links below to the latest guidance which includes advice on what services should remain open, visiting times for those providers with overnight beds and advice for businesses affected financially by COVID-19:

https://gov.wales/health-professionals-coronavirus

https://gov.wales/coronavirus-health-advice

https://gov.wales/business-and-employers-coronavirus

Please visit these pages regularly to keep up to date with any new guidance and advice that is issued.

Will services be inspected during the pandemic?

Our routine inspection programme has been paused for the foreseeable future as described above. However, if we receive significant concerns which affect safety we may undertake urgent visits if absolutely necessary.

Do services need to let HIW know that they are temporarily closing and when they reopen?

We want you to let us know if you are stopping services temporarily or reopening these services. There is no regulatory requirement for you to do this, but we are trying to keep track of this information. Please email hiw@gov.wales with this information if possible.

How do services register during the coronavirus pandemic/outbreak?

Our access to posted hard copy applications or supporting documentation is limited. We would encourage you to submit your applications electronically otherwise there will be a delay in the registration team receiving your information. Please also include COVID-19 in the subject header of the email if you are planning to register a service directly involved in the COVID-19 response. We will then contact you and provide advice on the next steps. We will also be publishing specific guidance to providers registering these types of services in the next few days. Here are some answers to common queries we have received about registration.

Registered manager interviews

We will be conducting these interviews by skype virtually for the foreseeable future. Checks of disclosure and barring and identity will also be undertaken virtually by skype and scanning.

Pre-registration visits

All document checks will be done virtually in advance of the visit. You may be asked to complete a video walk through and provide photos of the environment. Visits will then be conducted as soon as the outbreak is over.

Registration certificates

These will still be issued in hard copy and will still require signature for receipt.

We will continue to review the situation and our response to this over the coming weeks and months. We will continue to ensure that we target and focus our resources to support the healthcare system, welsh government and the public in this unprecedented and challenging time.

Yours faithfully

Alun Jones

Deputy Chief Executive

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