I hope this message finds everyone well and coping as best you can since the country went in to lockdown as a control measure to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like most people, other than identified Key Workers that require to attend work, I have been working from home. It does take a bit of getting used to.  I want to let you know that everyone is impacted and what we are doing as an organisation. 

The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) along with the Environmental Health community and others across the country have been impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahead of the full lockdown announced by both the UK and Scottish Governments on the evening of Monday 23 March 2020, the Institute through its staff and elected Council Members had already started to look at and implement alternative ways of working and providing a service, while helping to reduce the potential spread of illness.  This was immediately reviewed again at that time.  REHIS staff are currently working from home as far as possible. Regular contact, through various electronic means, is being maintained with all staff based at home.

Below is a summary of the activities being undertaken by the Institute:

·       The vast majority of work of the Institute continues with office staff based from home.  Recent progress to the use of 'Cloud' based storage systems for electronic files has facilitated this.

·       Anyone contacting the REHIS office by phone will hear a message advising any enquirers to email their query to contact@rehis.com, queries are forwarded to the relevant person.

·       Responses to queries from members of the public, other organisations, Students/Graduate Trainees, colleagues including training centres are continuing to be provided without interruption.

·       Ongoing, active, work with the two accredited university courses, in relation to the REHIS Diploma in Environmental Health, is continuing by electronic means.

·       Registration of new students onto Scottish Food Safety Officer Registration Board (SFSORB) Higher Certificate qualifications and REHIS Diploma in Environmental Health, including provision of appropriate documentation has continued as normal.

·       The Institute’s Committee meetings with elected members are being conducted virtually by Skype.

·       Institute representatives are continuing with virtual meetings including for example;   Partnership Health and Safety in Scotland (PHASS), Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee (SFELC) and a joint meeting with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland.

·       REHIS Approved Training Centres continuing to deliver REHIS Food Hygiene courses at Introduction, Elementary and Intermediate levels by e-Learning.

·       The Institute implemented contingency plans to allow Approved Training Centres to deliver live classes through video conferencing services such as Zoom or Skype for example.

·       REHIS Community Training Examiners are continuing to conduct live virtual oral examinations for Advanced Food Hygiene and Health and Safety courses.  Written examinations are being invigilated by live web cameras.

·       The Food Hygiene Secondary Schools Initiative has been issued digitally to schools to allow pupils to complete the course through homeworking.

·       REHIS e-alerts and newsletters are ongoing to keep members up to date

REHIS is aware through the roles undertaken by REHIS Office Bearers, Elected Council Members & the wider Membership and it partner organisations such as the Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland, Local Authorities and Approved Training centres that the COVID-19 Pandemic has significantly impacted the normal day to day activities of the Environmental Health profession and community in Scotland and elsewhere.

From personal experience I can report that Environmental Health and Trading Standards staff in Scotland’s Local Authorities have stepped up to the various challenges presented by the current pandemic.  This has included a joint expert panel for Local Authority regulatory activities in terms of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 has been set up under the auspices of both Professions Chief Officer Organisations. I am are also aware that a number of Local Authorities including their Environmental Health Teams are providing information to their communities via their websites and social media channels. 

Advice and information regarding coronavirus can be found online including at: 

·       NHS Inform

·       Health Protection Scotland

·       Scottish Government

·       Food Standards Scotland

·       Health and Safety Executive

As a thank you to all Key Workers, everyone please stay safe and follow the guidelines in place to help protect us all.

Lisa McCann