Claims Corner Guest Blog: Returning to work guidelines

With beauty therapy topping the ranks as the most anticipated consumer activity post-COVID-19, according to recent research, it has been a long wait for both patients and practitioners keen to return to the salon or clinic.  While the Government released its official guidelines to reopen the economy from 4 July, for owners of beauty salons, clinics and spas, their doors had to remain closed a little longer due to those services being deemed “close contact services”.

When the announcement came that aesthetic clinics, salons and spas in England would be allowed to open from 13 July, the guidance was not as straightforward as many hoped, with no treatments on the face permitted just yet. Despite this, we hope that those practitioners who have been able to return have had a great first week back.

While we await further government guidance, as aesthetic professionals, it is important to consider your duty of care to your clients as you re-open your doors post lockdown. Now would be a good time to contact clients and advise them you are excited to see them soon.  They will benefit from knowing the procedures you have put in place to keep them and your staff safe during their treatments and also remind them of their obligations in relation to treatments.  There is plenty to think about. Here, Kennedys Law LLP offer some thoughts with your insurance policy in mind.  Hamilton Fraser offer bespoke insurance policies and it is worth taking time to review your policy.

Before you see clients it may be worth considering what changes have taken place over the past few months.  Do any equipment or machines need servicing or testing given they have not been used for over three and a half months?  Do members of staff need refresher training because they have not used the machines for over three and a half months? Do clients need to be patch tested again? Does their patient medical history need updating?

For clinics who offer laser treatments, it is important to have consultations with their clients. Clinics need to reconnect with their clients and establish whether they have started taking medication or received a new diagnosis during lockdown, if so, what is it?  Have they become contraindicated for the treatment?  One of the few benefits of lockdown was we did have some lovely weather so some clients may have had sun exposure.  These issues are all relevant if clients are returning to continue their laser hair removal treatment packages.  It is important to ask those questions and keep a record of clients’ responses.  To be on the safe side, it would be better if they signed a confirmation that they have been asked about their medical history and whether there are changes, including questions relating to their sun exposure.

return to work laserDo clients require re-patch testing? Some policies have endorsements surrounding patch testing which apply to a range of scenarios, for example: prior to treatment of a new area, following a six month lapse in treatment, following the replacement, purchase or service of a machine, and following any change in treatment parameters. If any such alteration is justified, a change to the treatment parameter must be explained and consented to by the patient/client and a clear record kept.  Many clients may be keen to continue their treatment programme, but it is important to manage their expectations and to ensure their safety and not be persuaded by their desire to make up for gaps in treatments.  Following company policy and manufacturer’s guidelines are paramount. It will be important to remind clients of their pre and post treatment advice and all the side effects, risks and adverse reactions that could occur in relation to their treatment.  You are also obliged to explain the consequences of those side effects if one occurs, and the treatment of that side effect/adverse reaction should it occur.  It would be beneficial if they re-signed their consent for treatment.

Some policies have use of instruments clauses and provide guidance on the handling, use of and storage of any tool or implement used in the performance of a business activity which is intended to penetrate tissue or be in contact with bodily fluid. They must be stored in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions.

It is so important to ensure that you keep accurate, legible and detailed records.  Within the policies are a number of obligations about record keeping.  The policies state you are obligated to maintain an accurate and descriptive record of all professional services and equipment. For example, when performing injectables, it is important to keep a record of the product injected, volume injected, exact location, batch numbers, and to check and record all product expiry dates on products, and procedures/techniques used. The records must be retained for a period of 10 years from the date of treatment and the person carrying out the treatment must be qualified to do so.

Kennedys cannot emphasise enough the importance of keeping a record of a client’s treatment. It is enormously important not only for colleagues to read notes when performing treatments, but records can be used as evidence in the event of a complaint or a claim if the salon’s standard of care is questioned.   The record must be clear, legible, contemporaneous and complete. Make every effort to preserve the integrity of your records so they support client care and you are not vulnerable to criticism in the event of a complaint or claim.  It is important to remember you are the trained and experienced professional and you hold the knowledge about treatments and procedures, and it is important to share that information with patients.

In order to best support client care, your consultation notes should be made during the consultation and record the following details:

  • The date and time of each entry and your identity
  • Relevant history and examination findings (both normal and abnormal)
  • Information given to clients, including the different treatment options and risks explained during the consent discussion – this is extremely important. You are duty bound to provide your client with all the treatment options available to them, not just what you offer at the clinic. You are obliged to explain all the side effects and adverse reactions of treatment and the consequences of those side effects if one occurs, and the treatment of that side effect/adverse reaction should it be required
  • Obtain the client’s consent to treatment in writing, having explained all the risks and adverse reactions. A manufacturer-specific consent form is better than a generic consent form
  • You must listen to the patient’s concerns, preferences and expectations
  • Decisions made and agreed actions
  • Photographs – these would be retained on the client’s record, not to be used for promotion for the clinic

As well as face-to-face consultations, you should record all interactions with clients and any information relevant to their treatment, including:

  • Notes of telephone conversations
  • Discussions with colleagues and third parties
  • Correspondence

Never try to insert new notes or delete an entry. In written notes, errors should be crossed out with a single line so the original text is still legible and the corrected entry written alongside with the date, time and your signature. If you remember something significant you can make an additional note, but it should be clear when you added the information and why. Computerised entries will have an audit trail of all entries and deletions, so if something is deleted there should also be a clear record as to why that was done.

Remember, if a client complains, even if you think it is unfounded, you have a duty to inform your broker and they will decide whether it is necessary to inform the insurers.  The broker may also be able to provide guidance on how to manage the complaint or assist with wording a response to the client.  If a complaint is received via social media, ask if it can be transferred to email and keep the exchanges clear and professional.  Everyone is here to help and support each other.

If you do receive a complaint from a client, don’t admit liability but it is ok to say, “I am sorry to hear that,” or “I am sorry you are suffering”.  Managing a complaint well can often lead to the client being retained and the reputation of the clinic and salon remaining intact.

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About the author

Claire Bracewell

Claire’s main focus is medical malpractice claims and she is responsible for managing claims brought against the beauty industry, hairdressers and aesthetic practitioners. In addition, she deals with employment and public liability claims.

Claire Bracewell