FODO Member update

5 June 2020

In Friday’s update 

  • OFNC statement – resumption of GOS 

  • New guidance: meeting the eye care needs of people at higher risk of Covid-19 

  • Sector responds to viral video 

  • Other news                         

OFNC statement: resumption of General Ophthalmic Services in England 

The OFNC has today had further discussions with NHS England on arrangements for when and how optical practices can provide more face-to-face eye care. Despite recent speculation, NHS England has confirmed that a date for full resumption of face-to-face GOS has not yet been agreed. 

We hope and expect that a resumption date will be announced soon and that the instructions from NHS England will be to provide service ‘from’ rather than ‘on’ that date. This will allow practices to make the arrangements they need to ensure the safety of their patients and staff. It would now be prudent for all practices to review their own plans to resume GOS work once the date is known. 

We are also discussing with NHS England the need for ongoing financial support for practices since the need for social distancing and infection control will reduce their capacity significantly below pre-Covid levels. NHSE understands that support arrangements will need to work for all practices, including those that are not in a position to reopen at short notice. It has confirmed that the current average GOS payments support will be in place until at least the end of June. 

The OFNC is working hard with NHS England to develop a robust replacement system of support which is fair, works for all practices, and ensures that all primary eye care needs are met, without adding to existing pressures on GPs, ophthalmology departments and A&E.       

Meeting the eye care needs of people at higher risk of Covid-19 

The Optical Confederation’s Domiciliary Eyecare Committee (DEC) has highlighted the importance of eye health and vision care in a statement today. It has also issued guidance to support the provision of eye care to adults who are ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ and ‘clinically vulnerable’, as well as those who are unable to leave home owing to physical or mental ill-health or disability. 

As well as patients who cannot leave home for non-Covid reasons, 2.5 million people in the UK are now shielding on medical advice. Many more people have been advised to physically isolate or have chosen to do so based on their risk assessments, because of the pandemic. 

Vision is crucial for people in isolation for social functioning and mental health reasons. Such groups will also be highly vulnerable to eye disease because of age and other conditions, and they will have seen their eye health deteriorate during the past 10 weeks of lockdown. 

Much more is now known about the disease and how it is spread than in March. Also, personal protective equipment (PPS) and rigorous infection prevention and control (IPC) are in place to protect patients, staff and the public. As a result, eye care can be safely provided in private homes and care-home settings using ‘remote-first’ and ‘safety first’ principles based on assessed risk for each patient and location. 

Gordon Ilett, Co-chair of the DEC, said: “Vision and healthy eyes are critical to people who cannot leave home, may have other long-term conditions or who are isolating. Eye disease is insidious and can be catastrophic. We must not fail the most vulnerable in society by denying them the eye care they need to stay fit and well.” 

Download: 

  • DEC statement – meeting the eye health needs of vulnerable individuals during the next stages of the pandemic 

  • Guidance – meeting the eye health needs of shielding, isolating and domiciliary patients during the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic                                  

Sector responds to viral video 

A controversial video was circulating widely on sector forums and social media yesterday, 4 June. The footage showed a Specsavers practitioner explaining how the practice at which he is based was open, extending its hours and benefiting from other practices being closed/operating remotely. This would appear to be in contravention of the NHS England instruction of 1 April to practices suspending all routine eye care and has caused consternation across the sector. 

In a Tweet, the General Optical Council (GOC) confirmed it had received complaints and that its fitness to practise team was reviewing the video in line with its rules and legislation. 

In a statement for Specsavers, Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director, said: “The mandate given to our partners in England is very clear – to stringently adhere to all the current NHS England and professional guidelines. 

“The video that has appeared on social media featuring an individual Specsavers colleague does not represent the overall company’s view and is disappointing as it appears misleading about the intention and motivation of our thousands of committed professionals across the nation.”                                        

Other news 

As part of encouraging people to seek support from healthcare providers, Public Health England (PHE) has said it is important that the public understands they can access primary care services, including opticians. It has said patients “won’t be a burden on the NHS and that GP surgeries, pharmacies, dental practices, opticians and other NHS services have made changes to the way care is accessed to make it safer for people”. Learn more about PHE’s campaign.

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