Page updated 5th July 2020 - 17.20 (All links should go to current advice from the respective bodies)
On 17th June 2020 NHS England issued a letter to optical practices in England. It confirms that practices can begin to provide the full range of GOS services with immediate effect, under a standard operating procedure (SOP) which includes social distancing and infection control measures.
Given the advice issued by the national optical bodies over the past few days, this means that practices in England can now resume providing sight tests to both NHS and private patients. The new guidance allows practices to decide when they are ready to restart GOS work. The recommendation of the national optical bodies is still to prioritise patients on the basis of need and symptoms.
Note the new advice in the SOP that forms GOS 1, 3 & 4 may now all be submitted without a patient signature, provided the form is annotated “Covid-19".
Please see below for related updates and documents.
Future funding support for practices in England
Read the latest statement from OFNC here.
Please also see our regularly-updated subsection on personal protective equipment (PPE), including a list of wholesalers, and sources of guidance.
Local advice regarding urgent & emergency referrals during the pandemic is available to download from this page. The hospitals have advised us that they would prefer to receive such referrals in the usual manner. (Update 16th April - we're now hearing anecdotally that both MKUH BUS and SMH eye casualty have been happy to discuss cases by phone, even when the patient has not been seen face-to-face.) Please also see our 'urgent & emergency services' page for information about the MK Covid-19 Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES).
Please see below the latest developments in relation to the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.
1st July 2020 - The AOP again updated its guidance for employers on the Coronavirus Job Retention (furlough) Scheme, including an updated template furlough leave letter and a link to an HMRC Youtube video. (This, and other AOP coronavirus updates are now available to members only.)
29th June 2020 - NHS England - South East (for Mid & South Bucks) sent out a questionnaire to those practices who had previously stated that they were closed, asking if they were now open. They have asked us not to share the questionnaire, but please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you think that you should have received it and you haven't.
25th June 2020 - NHSE/I Midlands Regional Team shared information which may be of interest, in relation to the BAME optometry workforce.
24th June 2020 - GOC issued a revised version of its statement on re-opening optical practices.
24th June 2020 - MHRA issued the alert: PPE and heat: risk of heat stress.
22nd June 2020 - COptom updated its traffic light guidance table and confirmed that, at present, optical practices in England are in the amber phase, and should be following the amber column one section.
22nd June 2020 - NHS England - East (for MK) produced two documents, available to download from this page, on business continuity.
22nd June 2020 - Our colleagues in the NHSE/I South West Regional Team have provided a presentation on 'Infection, Prevention and Control' for community optical staff, and they have kindly shared a link so that other areas can watch it. (When asked to sign in, it’s probably easier to select ‘join anonymously’ instead.)
20th June 2020 - LOCSU issued the following advice regarding questionnaires requested by NHS England regional teams: "The completion of these questionnaires is not a mandatory contractual requirement." LOCSU recommends that, instead of completing the form, contractors should send the following statement to NHS England:
"Thank you for your helpful aide-memoire/checklist and support. We can confirm that [PRACTICE NAME and CODE} is open from [DATE] in accordance with NHS England’s 17 June letter and SOP. We have carried a risk assessment and are currently focusing on keeping our patients, staff and the public safe in line with College of Optometrist and ABDO guidance."
18th June 2020 - The process of acquiring a secure nhs.net email address has been greatly simplified, with online application and response within one week.
17th June 2020 - NHS England - South East (for Mid & South Bucks) produced a checklist - marked (South East) - available to download from this page, aimed at encouraging practices to risk assess all aspects of providing GOS services and safely re-open their doors to patients and their staff.
17th June 2020 - NHS England - East (for MK) produced guidance for primary care contractors, including a checklist, confirmation of what counts as 'contact' in a primary care setting, and various other items of guidance. They also sent a risk assessment document, and requested confirmation via a questionnaire by 24th June (but see 20th June update above). The documents - marked (East) - are available for download from this page.
16th June - COptom advised that it is now acceptable to restart the use of air puff tonometry, after undertaking a local risk assessment and whilst continuing to follow infection control and other guidance related to COVID-19.
15th June 2020 - The GOC issued a new set of FAQs about Covid-19.
12th June 2020 - The OFNC asked the government for continued financial support for optical practices.
11th June 2020 - The AOP produced guidance on UV-C disinfection.
11th June 2020 - The AOP produced returning to work post-Covid-19 FAQs, including advice on a variety of associated topics, for members only.
11th June - ABDO has updated its Covid-19 advice, to include sections on PPE advice, PPE suppliers, further guidance on dispensing & contact lenses, and practice resources.
9th June 2020 - NHS England issued advice on 'minimising nosocomial infections', including action to take if a member of staff has symptoms of Covid-19.
5th June 2020 - The OFNC met with NHS England, hoping to agree a date for resumption of full face-to-face care. Their statement confirms that no date was given.
5th June 2020 - The AOP issued a statement, in response to reports that a practice had been found to be delivering routine eyecare, in breach of current restrictions. The practice group also responded.
4th June - The GOC updated its FAQs for the public, available on its Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest information page.
29th May - The government announced changes to the furlough scheme and confirmation that the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) will be extended until the end of October. Check if you are eligible to claim SEISS.
29th May - COptom issued extensive guidance for primary eye care during the Covid-19 pandemic amber phase, in preparation for when practices will begin to provide services other than urgent or emergency and essential eyecare. There's also a table outlining how eyecare might need to be adapted during the various stages of the pandemic. ABDO has also issued resources and resources and guidance on returning to practice.
28th May - The government announced that general dental services were to resume on 8th June. The OFNC issued a statement in response.
27th May - OFNC issued a statement on an expanded range of situations where patient care may now be considered as ‘essential’.
25th May - The government advised that non-essential retail premises would be allowed to reopen on 15th June. ABDO has clarified that this does not include optical practices.
On 21st May Public Health England called for applications for the roles of clinical contact caseworkers. We can confirm that these roles are open to registered optometrists and registered dispensing opticians.
On 21st May the AOP produced lots of resources around the themes of 'back to work' and 'returning to practice'. These are available for members only from the AOP.
On 20th May the ABDO produced lots of resources around the theme of guidance on returning to practice.
On 19th May 2020, in preparation for returning to work / practice, the government updated its guidance on working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19), including: guidance for shops and branches and 5 steps to working safely.
On 19th May the BCLA issued advice in preparation for returning to practice.
On 18th May loss of smell or taste was confirmed as an official marker for Covid-19.
On 14th May NHS England issued a series of measures designed to help local hospitals begin to increase routine operations and treatment. Patients who need important planned procedures will begin to be scheduled for that care over the coming weeks.
On 13th May the government issued information about it's self employment income support scheme.
On 13th May, in preparation for returning to routine work, the AOP produced a hand hygiene poster for patients, which can be displayed in practice.
On 13th May OFNC issued a statement confirming that routine sight testing remains suspended.
On 13th May – the AOP launched a series of graphics and videos for social media, to enable you to share essential eye health advice as lockdown takes its toll.
On 12th May ABDO & COptom issued a joint statement on the easing of lockdown in England.
On 11th May NHSE confirmed that the GOS support grant payments would be made on your usual scheduled payment date (not 4-5th May as previously announced).
On 10th May MHRA issued an urgent alert on the removal of the Tiger Eye Protector product from the supply chain, in respect of Covid-19 use.
On 4th May 2020 Primary Eyecare Services Ltd opened their not-for-profit online shop for PPE.
On 28th April 2020, we received information on how to access COVID-19 testing.
On 26th April, LOCSU produced a podcast, mainly directed at LOCs and those interested in the commissioning aspect of the COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES).
On 24th April 2020 the OFNC issued clarification on the date of payment of the GOS support grant.
On 18th April 2020 OFNC guidance was again updated. Changes this time include: further clarification on what counts as being 'open for essential care'; how your eligibility for NHS support is affected if you cannot provide face-to-face appointments due to lack of PPE; further guidance on the implications when optical staff take on other roles during the pandemic; FAQs on the new COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES). Also, the main optical sector indemnity insurance providers produced an update on COVID-19 insurance arrangements for the optical workforce.
On 17th April the service specification for the new COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES) in England was published. OFNC FAQs are available on this topic. We have been in contact with both of the CCGs in our area about this, and we hope to be able to give a local update soon.
On 17th April 2020 the GOC issued updated FAQs. Much of this is a compilation of advice previously given, but it does include a new statement on the verification of contact lens specifications.
On 16th April the AOP produced guidance on when and how to provide a sight test during the pandemic, including a downloadable remote consultation form.
On 12th April NHS England produced guidance on how the optical workforce can use their professional skills and experience in different settings in either paid or volunteer roles. The GOC has also produced a statement on this topic.
On 9th April 2020 OFNC updated its FAQs on NHS England's 1st April letter. The latest FAQs clarify what is considered as being 'open' to qualify for NHS financial support. There is also further information on financial support, and advice on signatures for GOS forms. The College of Optometrists also updated its COVID-19 guidance for optometrists.
On 3rd April 2020 guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) was issued by NHS England. The letter and associated documents are available to download here. We have been advised by NHS England that the supply distribution helpline can answer PPE calls and emails 24/7 via the supply disruption helpline: 0800 915 9964 email@example.com. However, we understand that this might not help, and we are awaiting further advice.
Guidance on the use of PPE is also available from the College of Optometrists. This includes: what PPE should be worn; advice on how to put on and remove PPE; how to dispose of PPE.
On 1st April 2020 NHS England issued an announcement, including details of support payments for practices which continue to provide essential care for patients during the COVID-19 crisis. Read the letter from NHSE here in full. This was followed on 2nd April by clarification from ONFC (regularly updated since), and by a webinar from the AOP, which may answer many practitioners' questions.
On 25th March 2020 an important statement on opening arrangements and key worker status was produced by the OFNC.
On 21st March 2020 ENT UK issued information on loss of sense of smell as marker of COVID-19 infection.
Following the statement issued by the GOC on 19th March 2020, the joint optical bodies have issued guidance and templates which may be used if spectacles or contact lenses are to be issued following telephone review.
There is a lot of information, regularly updated, on the GOC website.
The AOP has a useful coronavirus section, which is regularly updated.
ABDO also has a dedicated coronavirus advice page.
The College of Optometrists has a daily update page.
LOCSU news includes regular Covid-19 updates.
The NHS, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) have developed the following guidance for the public and healthcare professionals:
- Information for the public and patients
- Guidance for healthcare professionals
- Poster to display in practices
- NHS England coronavirus advice for clinicians
On 27th Feb 2020 (later updated) NHS England produced standard operating procedures for optical practice , designed to support primary care teams in managing contact with, and presentations of, patients who suspect they may have COVID-19.
On 19th Feb 2020 NHS England issued advice for optical practices.
The information and guidance are being updated regularly as the situation develops, and we recommend that you remain alert for any updates.