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Serious event standard

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Introduction

Serious events can occur at local, regional, or national levels that cause material disruption to the environment and conditions under which physiotherapists normally practise. This standard addresses how physiotherapists are required to respond to serious events in order to maintain the health and safety of the public. Serious events can include disasters, epidemics, and pandemics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines disaster as ‘an occurrence disrupting the normal conditions of existence and causing a level of suffering that exceeds the capacity of adjustment of the affected community’1. A disaster may be natural (e.g., earthquake, cyclone, flood, fire) or man-made (e.g., war, insurrection, social unrest, terrorist attack).

The WHO defines epidemic as ‘the occurrence in a community or region of cases of an illness, specific health-related behaviour, or other health-related events clearly in excess of normal expectancy’ and pandemic as ‘an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people’1.

For the purposes of this standard, an event such as a disaster, epidemic, or pandemic that causes, or may cause, material disruption to the provision of physiotherapy services or to the environment and conditions under which physiotherapists normally practice is a serious event. The serious event may cause disruption nationally or be limited to one or more regions.

The objective of this standard is to facilitate the provision of responsive, safe, and effective physiotherapy services to the public during a serious event, where practicable.  The primary aim is the protection of the health and safety of the public.

1. Regulation during a serious event

  • During a serious event, directives and instructions (requirements) may be prescribed by regulatory agencies to protect the health and safety of members of the public. These requirements may come from the Government, the Ministry of Health, the National Emergency Management Agency (Civil Defence), other government agencies, or from local government agencies with jurisdiction in a particular region. Physiotherapists must follow and adhere to all instructions and directions given by these agencies that apply to them.
  • The Physiotherapy Board (the Board) may also prescribe requirements for physiotherapists in relation to serious events consistent with the principal purpose of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, which is ‘to protect the health and safety of members of the public’. Physiotherapists must comply with all requirements notified by the Board in relation to a serious event in accordance with this standard.

2. Notification of requirements relating to a serious event

  • Requirements applying in relation to a serious event shall commence when they have been approved by a decision made by the Board (or under delegation) and published in a notice on the Board’s website or communicated in any other written notice addressed to physiotherapists. These requirements may be prescribed for a defined period of time or for an indefinite duration.
  • Requirements prescribed for a defined period shall cease to apply when such period expires. Requirements prescribed for an indefinite duration shall cease to apply when revoked by a decision made by the Board (or under delegation) and published in a notice on the Board’s website or communicated in any other written notice addressed to physiotherapists.
  • A notice prescribing requirements for a serious event shall identify:
  • the serious event; and
  • the requirements that apply to physiotherapists in relation to the serious event. Such requirements may apply generally to all physiotherapists, or only in respect of a specified class or classes of physiotherapists, for example, based on type of practice, such as DHB or non-DHB physiotherapists, or based on the geographical region in which the physiotherapists practise.

3.  Matters that may be the subject of requirements

  • Matters that may be the subject of requirements in relation to a serious event include, without limitation:
  • restrictions on, or alterations to the delivery of physiotherapy services
  • circumstances in which in-person patient consultations may occur
  • entry to and use of premises
  • safety and security measures
  • cleaning and hygiene measures
  • use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • involvement of third parties in patient consultations
  • collection, use, and disclosure of personal information.

4. Scope of practice – defined field of practice

  • Notwithstanding a serious event, physiotherapists must practise physiotherapy within their scope of practice and ensure they have the adequate skills and training to perform safely any tasks or activities they undertake outside their usual work practices.

5. Annual Practising Certificates (APC)

  • Physiotherapists must hold a current APC at all times when they are practising physiotherapy during a serious event and must continue to comply with all conditions in their scope of practice, except in the instance that the Board has confirmed in a written notice that a particular condition has been cancelled, revoked, waived, or varied.

Related resources

Physiotherapists practising in a defined field Standard

 

References

  1. World Health Organisation Definitions: https://www.who.int/hac/about/definitions/en/

 

Issued: 26 July 2021

This statement is scheduled for review in 2026. Legislative changes may make this statement obsolete before this review date.