Psychologists Board > For Registered Practitioners > Covid 19

Covid 19

Update on the use of face masks – 22 September 2021

We understand there are questions and concerns regarding the use of masks and the recent updates we have provided. Thank you to those who have raised these concerns and have submitted detail regarding the complexities and limitations that the current advice from the Ministry has created.  We have presented these to MOH and they are currently considering these concerns.  An update will be provided as soon as we have further information.

Ngā mihi, nā

Kylie Hooper
General Manager/Registrar

Level 2 advice – Use of face coverings

Kia ora

I understand that many practitioners have had further questions regarding the use of face coverings in their work during Level 2. Thank you for your patience while we have sought to gain further clarification from the Ministry of Health for practitioners outside the Auckland area working under Level 2. 

The Ministry of Health has advised that any location where work is performed by a psychologist is considered a health care setting. This includes private practice rooms. As such, all practitioners must wear a mask in Level 2.

Additionally, clients must also wear masks when visiting a healthcare setting however are not required to wear a face covering if they have a physical or mental health illness or condition or disability that makes wearing a face covering unsuitable.

Please refer to the following links for further information on wearing a face covering:

As indicated by the advice from the Ministry last week, Telehealth and virtual appointments are still the preferred option. 

Ngā mihi, nā

Kylie Hooper
General Manager/Registrar

Latest COVID Alert Level 2 update – 7 September 2021

We have received advice from the Ministry of Health regarding Level 2 stating that providing services via remote contact should be considered in the first instance and then if in person, that guidance is followed as per PPE and environmental precautions provided.

They have issued the following statement which can be found here:

The main message is that clinical reasoning and risk assessment remain the fundamental principles for considering care at Alert Level 2. Telehealth and virtual appointments are still the preferred option and please exercise extra caution when treating vulnerable groups.

Clinicians will be able to see patients face to face if the following processes are in place:

  • screening for COVID-19 symptoms prior to face-to-face appointment
  • physical distancing measures
  • Infection prevention control measures including PPE where required
  • Transmission precaution measures including consideration of ventilation.

When considering travel within and between regions ensure all risks have been taken into account before undertaking to provide care to patients and traveling to receive training.

Use of Masks

Alert 2 focuses on being vigilant with physical distancing, contact tracing and maintaining hygiene standards. Please refer to the following government advice regarding the use of masks.  If you are unable to maintain appropriate physical distancing you would be strongly encouraged to wear a mask as per the guidelines below:

What Alert Level 2 means for you.

Wearing a face covering.

Working Safely at Alert Level 2.

Latest update Tuesday 31 August 2021

As was confirmed by the Prime Minister yesterday Auckland and Northland region will remain at Alert Level 4 for two more weeks with the remainder of the country moving to Level 3 on Tuesday 31 August 2021 at 11.59pm

The latest information from the Ministry regarding level 3 and what this means for you can be found here and here

The main points are that virtual appointments should be provided where possible as the preferred method of service delivery. Face-to-face appointments may be provided for urgent care only so long as clinicians can take appropriate measures to manage public health.

Urgent care for community allied health is defined as:

  • a condition which is life or limb threatening; or
  • treatment required to maintain the basic necessities of life; or
  • treatment that cannot be delayed or carried out remotely without risk of significant harm or permanent and/or significant  disability, or
  • where failure to access services will lead to an acute deterioration of a known condition; or
  • where delay in access to services will impact the consumer’s ability to maintain functional independence and significantly negatively impact quality of life

AND

  • which cannot be delivered by a service which is currently operating or by clinicians that are already in contact with the patient for ongoing care.

If you have any questions please email the Senior psychology adviser, Ann Connell at ann.connell@nzpb.org.nz

MOH Policy for students completing training placements or face-to-face training assessments during Covid – 19

Please refer to the following link for details on the Ministry of Health’s policy for students completing training placements/face-to-face assessments during Covid 19.

Psychological Practice under Alert Level 4

On Tuesday 17th August 2021, the Government announced that New Zealand would move to Alert Level 4, effective as of 11:59 pm.

The Ministry of Health has set out its expectations for Allied Health, Scientific and Technical Service Provisions. Please refer to the following link for details.   You may also wish to refer to their website for further information.

If you have any questions please email the Senior psychology adviser, Ann Connell at ann.connell@nzpb.org.nz

Other useful information:

Telepsychology and TeleNeuropsychology (under review)

The Board and the professional associations have partnered to respond to a number of questions about the ethics and practicalities of delivering psychology and neuropsychology services via remote or telehealth means during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please see the FAQs for those questions and answers.  If your concern is not addressed there please email ann.connell@nzpb.org.nz

If you are within an acute or essential service meeting with clients in person, please review the Ministry of Health’s advice on minimising the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in your workplace.

Telepsychology resources (under review):

The Australian Psychological Society has a useful link on its website: Principles for choosing videoconferencing technology.  The underlying principles in the Board’s 2012 The Practice of Telepsychology also remain relevant. The NZ Telehealth Forum & Resource Centre has excellent guidance including on security and technical matters.

APA COVID-19 tele-assessment principles developed by A. Jordan Wright, Joni L. Mihura, Hadas Pade, and David M. McCord and approved by the SPA Board. April 3 2020.

COVID 19 resources

The New Zealand Psychological Society and New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists have both compiled COVID-19 Resources.

The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission Resource Hub includes sections for people working in health during the pandemic, Hauora Māori resources, Wellbeing resources and Leadership resources

Client confidentiality, privacy and contact tracing

Several psychologists have asked about how to manage client confidentiality and  privacy in the event that the psychologist is diagnosed with COVID-19 and contact tracing needs to be undertaken by Public Health officials, and what their responsibilities are to their clients. The Board has obtained legal advice on this question.  That advice is that a psychologist who has tested positive for Covid19 can disclose client or patient information to the appropriate public health body for the purpose of contact tracing or other public health measures:

If you are affected, in the first instance, the appropriate public health authority that you should contact will be Healthline (Ministry of Health) or your local DHB’s public health unit.  The health authority will tell you what patient information you will need to disclose, but you must not disclose any information beyond what is requested. This information is likely to be limited to the patient’s name and contact details, and when (e.g. date/time) and for how long you were in contact with the patient. It is important that you:

(1) do not disclose patient information to any person or body other than the appropriate public health body; and

(2) do not disclose more information than is necessary to enable the health authority to take appropriate steps.

After you have contacted the public health authority, you also have an obligation, where possible, to contact the patients that you have provided information about to the authority. The potential exposure to Covid19 is something that is relevant to your obligations of open disclosure and the therapeutic relationship with the patient.  By contacting the patient you will help to reduce any alarm or distress that the patient may feel if that are ‘cold-called’ by the public health authorities without any forewarning. 

If the public health authority requests you to provide information about the patients that you have recently had contact with, you must comply with that request and disclose the patient information.

The Ministry of Health and Office of the Privacy Commissioner also provide information and resources on contact tracing.