Hampshire LOC COVID-19 Update 23 March 2020

Monday 23rd March 2020

Dear Colleagues

This is a difficult time for everyone: locums who have empty diaries and employed practitioners who are expected to work ‘as normal’, with diaries full of routine, un-triaged patients.  Additionally, business owners have lost income and payrolls that still need paying.

On 17th March 2020, practices in Wales received instructions to continue to provide essential sight test services only. General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) providers in Scotland have been advised to cease the provision of routine eye care services from today, and move to providing only emergency and essential care. In Northern Ireland, the requirement to collect patient signatures on declaration forms for GOS eye examinations or enhanced services has been waived.

As of today, The College of Optometrists recommends that every optometrist and practice owner stops providing routine sight tests and routine eye examinations, and offers only essential services. Essential services would include sight tests based on a clinical need, and urgent eye care pathways.

Hampshire LOC is committed to the optical profession continuing to provide essential or emergency eye care services in the safest manner possible.  We will strive to keep you abreast of current advice from our professional bodies and have links below for your information, including from the Primary Eye Care Service regarding extended services.

If you have concerns regarding your working environment or COVID-19 practice policies, we would encourage you to raise this with your employer and Hampshire LOC. We will then forward these concerns to the LOC Support Unit (LOCSU), in order to give our profession a voice on a national scale. You must only act on advice issued directly from the Government or professional bodies, including the LOC.

In this stressful time, please remember that Hampshire LOC are happy to be contacted and the AOP offer a confidential Peer Support Line (0800 087 8401).

Please check our website (which has been recently revamped) for regular updates:

We are also on the following social media platforms:

Important Covid-19 Updates

There have been some very useful national guidance documents released in recent days. The main GOC Covid-19 page which references these and other statements is here: Click here

  • The College of Optometrists have some very good updates, with excellent FAQs:  Click here
  • The College of Optometrists & Royal College of Ophthalmologists have also produced a  joint statement about viral conjunctivitis and Covid-19 : Click here
  • If you provide extended services through Primary Eyecare Services (PES) then please read their guidance here: Click here
  • NHS England (NHSE) standard operating procedures (SOPs) for primary care were published on 5th March (Click here) (they are due to be updated)
  • The GOC has issued a couple of important statements:
    1. A joint statement with the other healthcare regulators recognising that professionals may need to depart from their usual procedures at this time: Click here
    2. Reassurance that using professional judgement we can supply spectacles and contact lenses without first requiring the patient to attend an optical practice: Click here
  • Optical Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) are working with NHSE on financial support and adjustment to contract requirements Click here

This sector-specific advice is in addition to the Government advice to all citizens: Click here

  • This advises risk groups, those over 70 and those with underlying health conditions (details on the website) to follow social distancing measures.
  • Social distancing is explained here: Click here

It has been announced that schools will provide childcare (not education) for children of health & social care workers so they can continue to work.

  • The guidance the schools are following is here: Click here

As yet there is no clarity on whether or not optical professionals are ‘essential workers’.  For now, our advice is that if you can’t do without the childcare support in order to fulfil your healthcare role you, should assert that you are a key worker, until we are provided with a clear position on this. The argument is especially strong if you provide MECS, which we expect to be busier than usual. We are working on a model letter you can use to reply to schools which will come out via the optical representative organisations.

Yours faithfully

Sean Matthews

Chair – Hampshire LOC