FODO Member Covid-19 update
12 June 2020
At FODO, we are supporting members seven days a week throughout this phase of the Covid-19 crisis. If you need us, please email or call us as usual.
In this update:
OFNC writes to ministers about financial support
Importance of social distancing at work – test and trace
The impact of lockdown on the nation’s eye health
New support for reopening and recovery of high streets
Sector guidance updates
Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services – Northern Ireland
Furlough update – new parents and factsheet
SEISS and CJRS ‘factsheets’
Grants extended to help more companies in need – Scotland
Other sector news
1. OFNC writes to ministers about financial support
The OFNC has today written an open letter to the Health Secretary and optics minister at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) about recent messaging from NHS England regional offices, suggesting that financial support to help optical practices deal with Covid-19 may stop at the end of June.
The OFNC letter points out that the sector is now preparing to resume care on a wider scale in the coming week, but will face reduced capacity because of social distancing, and that any cliff-edge end to financial support would make it impossible for practices to prioritise remote care and effectively respond to Covid-19. The letter calls for urgent action to clarify funding arrangements and not to unnecessarily delay the resumption of regular NHS care.
We will keep members up to date with developments, including via member alerts, as we ease out of lockdown this and next week in England. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please get in touch in the usual way by emailing email@example.com.
2. Importance of social distancing at work – test and trace
Matt Hancock confirmed at yesterday’s Downing Street conference that if you are complying with Covid Secure standards, then one member of staff being asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace would not result in the entire work team having to self-isolate.
This reconfirms the importance of ensuring compliance with infection prevention and control measures in your practice. You can do this by following our four stages to safer care, especially standard precautions in primary eye care settings.
We would recommend that members listen to the extract from the press conference – 23.30min to 26.45min. Although this conference only referred to the Test and Trace system in England, the same principles hold in all UK countries.
3. The impact of lockdown on the nation’s eye health
A Fight for Sight survey of 325 people with sight loss has shown the serious impact lockdown has had on eye health and wellbeing. Seventy-three per cent said their access to treatment has become worse during the pandemic, with some reporting cancelled surgeries, as well as cancelled injections for age-related macular degeneration. Of those surveyed, 40 per cent said they were concerned their eyesight would deteriorate as a result. There were also other impacts, including more than half reporting access to food and other products had worsened during the pandemic.
Chief Executive of Fight for Sight Sherine Krause said: “The government must develop a plan that addresses the immediate need of people with eye conditions, so they don’t become blind because of lockdown and social distancing measures.” Read more.
The BBC also reported this week that thousands of people were at risk of sight loss due to missed care. This was based on the UK Ophthalmology Alliance and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists calculating that at least 10,000 people have missed out on care essential to maintaining their sight in England, Wales and Scotland. There were particular concerns about delays in care for conditions including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment. Read more.
In Northern Ireland, Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services also set out the adverse impacts of Covid-19 on eyecare services. It noted there had been a marked reduction in the availability of ophthalmic services with a minimum service focused on emergency.
4. New support for reopening and recovery of high streets – England
The government’s High Streets Task Force for England has today, 12 June, launched a new package to support hight streets get back to business.
The support package includes free access to online training programmes, webinars, data and intelligence on topics including recovery planning and coordination, public space and place marketing.
Learn more and register.
5. Sector guidance updates
ABDO has now issued its long-awaited guidance on dispensing and contact lens practice during Covid-19. The guidance includes manufacturer guidance on frame cleaning and further guidance on dispensing spectacles and contact lenses.
The College of Optometrists made minor amendments to its traffic light (RAG) table earlier this week, adding a new row for contact lenses to align with ABDO guidance. Learn more about the College’s traffic light model.
The Welsh government has published Optometry recovery guidance. It provides a summary of key steps local practices and practitioners can take while they plan to reopen. The guidance includes tips on how to minimise the risk of virus transmission. Although it adds no new detail, it provides a helpful summary of existing sector guidance. Members in Wales should wait for official confirmation as to when the amber phase begins.
The NHS in England wrote to all optometry providers on 9 June about how to minimise the risk of nosocomial infections in the NHS. Although the letter simply reiterates past FODO guidance and updates, all members operating in England should read the letter in full.
6. Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services – Northern Ireland
On 9 June, the Department of Health published a Strategic Framework which covers the adverse impacts of Covid-19 and how it plans to restore services. The plan is to incrementally increase capacity as quickly as possible across all programmes of care, developing specific service activity targets for each programme of care.
The framework acknowledges a marked reduction in the availability of ophthalmic services during the first phase of the pandemic, with a 72 per cent reduction in sight tests.
It notes that ophthalmology is a high-volume speciality that accounts for 10 per cent of all outpatient appointments. However, about 75 per cent of urgent appointments during the pandemic have been managed by telephone, or video reviews with a face-to-face appointment arranged based on clinical need. The report also reveals that the Belfast Trust Cataracts Team maintained 15 per cent of cataract surgical activity through lockdown, as well as prioritising glaucoma patients in the greatest need.
Specifically related to GOS, the Department of Health and HSC Board will continue to work with Optometry NI to rebuild services guided by the available medical and scientific guidance.
Access the framework documents.
7. Furlough update – new parents
HM Treasury confirmed this week that people on paternity and maternity leave who return to work in the coming months will still be eligible for the government’s furlough scheme if they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees. This means that parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the furlough scheme even after the 10 June cut-off. Read more.
8. SEISS and CJRS ‘factsheets’
The government has published two short ‘factsheets’ covering the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) and coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS). This includes a summary of the schemes and how to claim.
Read both factsheets.
Please note more detailed guidance on the CRJS is due today, 12 June, and we will forward an analysis of this guidance as soon as possible.
9. Grants extended to help more companies in need – Scotland
Small businesses that share properties but do not pay business rates are now eligible to apply for grants to help with the impact of Covid-19. The extension to the Small Business Grant Fund will apply to firms occupying shared office spaces, business incubators or shared industrial units and who lease the space from a registered, rate-paying landlord. Learn more.
10. Other sector news
Vision UK has announced it will close on 31 July 2020. The umbrella organisation says resource pressures because of Covid-19 would mean it could no longer operate. The Vision UK team wished all its “members, friends, associates and all blind and partially sighted people (and those at risk of sight loss) all the very best and all success for the future”.
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has appointed Professor Bernie Chang as the new President following an election earlier in the year. Commenting on his election, he said that entering office during the pandemic posed challenges but also meant “there is every opportunity to put into practice the new models of care, continue to use innovative technology and to support members further”. Professor Chang, who takes over from Mike Burdon, will be in the post for three years. Read the full statement.
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the British & Irish Orthoptic Society have released rapid advice regarding the use of vision testing apps for children during the pandemic lockdown and recovery of services. The review found that “the reliability of apps, when used by a parent or guardian in the home setting to test visual acuity in children, is not yet proven”. It resulted in the committee recommending a cautious approach to the use of such apps to manage amblyopia or to monitor vision in children. Read the review.
It’s Glaucoma Awareness Week (GAW) 2020 from 29 June to 5 July. The event will be raising awareness about glaucoma by creating things to do at home, including younger supporters creating drawings to stick in windows and posting on social media. Learn more.
The European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) has published a position paper on contact lens safety, setting out how contact lenses are safe to use when used correctly.
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