Page updated 29th May 2020 - 17.45 (All links should go to current advice from the respective bodies)
At the time of writing, national advice is still that practices should not be open for routine work yet.
Remember to let NHS England know the current status of your practice and what level of care you are able to offer during the pandemic. All contractors should have received an email from NHS England requesting this information. (Also see OFNC guidance on what counts as being 'open'.) It's helpful if you can include your ODS code. Make sure that your patients know what to do if they need care; this could include a notice on the door, emails and phone calls redirected (or an appropriate message available to patients).
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. As this will involve a face-to-face appointment, we have compiled a list of those practices who are offering this service. (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.) Those who are offering face-to-face might like to order free protective breath shields from Zeiss. Breath shields are also available from Grafton Optical.
In light of the developing situation in relation to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19, this is a reminder to remain up to date with all public health statements and guidance. We've included links below, rather than the actual documents, as the links should be updated as the situation develops.
Probably the most read resource regarding the current pandemic is the frequently-updated OFNC guidance. If you have a query, it may be best to look there first. Below are further links to this and to various other sources of guidance.
On 29th May COptom issued extensive guidance for primary eye care during the Covid-19 pandemic amber phase, when practices 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.
On 28th May the government announced that general dental services were to resume on 8th June. The OFNC issued a statement in response.
On 27th May OFNC issued a statement on an expanded range of situations where patient care may now be considered as ‘essential’.
On 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 15th May 2020 the AOP again updated its guidance for employers on the Coronavirus Job Retention (furlough) Scheme.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.