This page summarises the latest advice during the COVID-19 outbreak. Scroll down for advice by country and FAQs for practitioners and the public.
The NHS has created a poster to help you remind patients to wear masks.You can download and save or print the poster to use on your practice door, website and social media.
Follow the links for further information specific to each nation
The GOC has published its response to the Covid-19 statement consultation. Updated versions of the GOC statement can be found here. These are now aligned to The College of Optometrists Primary eye care Covid-19 pandemic guidance.
Please note that the statement on supply of spectacles and contact lenses and the statement on verification of contact lenses specifications will now only be permitted in the red phase as defined by the CoO, “when a government or health service suspends routine primary care due to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Find Covid vaccination information
It is helpful to consider how you might support informed decision making so that when colleagues are invited to have the Covid-19 vaccination, they are ready to act. Here are links to official guidance:
The Covid-19 green book clarifies that frontline healthcare staff are in the same priority group for vaccination independently of how people pay for their care. If you do not provide NHS care but deliver face-to-face patient care, you should expect the local vaccination programme to contact you. Meanwhile, we recommend you contact your representative body to ensure that they can send you relevant vaccination information that might be shared with NHS contract holders.
If you have further queries about vaccines, please contact email@example.com.
Receiving the vaccine in England
Following published government guidance confirming that all optical practice staff and locums should be included in the priority group for Covid-19 vaccination, the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) is paving the way for practitioners to be included on local lists to receive their vaccination.
Non-NHS practice staff
The first port of call for non-NHS practitioners and staff is to check whether they can be included on a listing with their local optical committee (LOC).
LOCs are working across England to create lists of staff employed in GOS practices. As such, practitioners are advised to make contact with their LOC so that all practice staff may be included on its listing for the vaccination programme. Links to all LOCs in England with a web presence can be found on the LOC Online portal.
However, if none of the above applies, practitioners can complete LOCSU’s Non-NHS Practices Form to add themselves and their staff to a local vaccination list.
Locums are advised to check initially with any practices they work with, if they may be included on a practice staff list being submitted to its LOC (as above).
Locums may also be able to register directly with their clinical commissioning group or primary care network.
However, if none of the above is possible, locums may complete LOCSU’s Locum Form to ensure they are included on a local vaccination list.
Practitioners who have any further questions are advised to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Receiving the vaccine in Scotland
Contact Optometry Scotland.
Receiving the vaccine in Wales
Contact Optometry Wales.
Receiving the vaccine in Northern Ireland
Contact Optometry Northern Ireland.
A letter has been released to go to all optical professionals on behalf of the professional bodies and government bodies responsible for ophthalmic dispensing and optometry. The full text of the letter can be read here.
You can read all guidance from the College of Optometrists for the COVID-19 outbreak here.
The College of Optometrists and Royal College of Ophthalmologists joint statement on COVID-19 and viral conjunctivitis can be read here.
From 11th November 2021, anyone working or volunteering in a care home will be required to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) unless medically exempt. 16th September is the last date to receive your first dose in order to be fully vaccinated in time to comply with the change in the rules. The College of Optometrists Guidance for Professional Practice states you should keep up to date with immunisation. (B36) If you cannot have the COVID-19 vaccination, you should speak with your employer and representative organisation.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
It is strongly recommended all health care professionals are fully vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) unless medically exempt. Although it is not a regulatory requirement, it may be a condition of your employment – for current employment contracts this would need to be discussed. For new employees, this could be specified as a contractual requirement of employment. The College of Optometrists Guidance for Professional Practice states you should keep up to date with immunisation. (B36) If you cannot have the COVID-19 vaccination, you should speak with your employer and representative organisation.
Issued in conjunction with The College of Optometrists
Updated: 24th August 2021
No. You should self-isolate in line with government guidance. At the end of the self-isolation period, you should complete an LFT prior to your first day back. The exemption for self-isolation when a vaccinated person is a close contact no longer applies for people sharing the same household when working in a healthcare setting. This is because the risk of COVID transmission may be higher for people within your home than a single episode of a COVID-19 close contact in another environment.
Scotland (Updated 27th August 2021)
Yes. You can continue to work provided you have a negative PCR test, no symptoms and follow the conditions set out by The Scottish Government. (See link below)
No. If you are a fully vaccinated, health and social care worker and identified as a close contact (including a household member), you may not be able to attend the workplace during the 10 day period following last contact. You should refer to the separate guidance for health and social care workers and discuss with your manager if you can attend the workplace. (Only occur in exceptional circumstances, following a risk assessment carried out by a suitably competent and authorised manager in the organisation and when additional mitigations can be upheld would you be permitted to return to the workplace.)
No. If you reside with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19. If this is the case, then you must be redeployed into a role not involving contact with patients/service users or be required to not attend work where this is not possible.
Issued in conjunction with The College of Optometrists
Updated: 24th August 2021
Patients who attend optical practices and who subsequently test positive for COVID-19 are not generally considered contacts for NHS Test and Trace/Test and Protect purposes when the practice has been following IPC procedures and practitioners have been wearing PPE properly when they were in contact with the patient.
Each Test and Trace/Test and Protect call handler is a clinician who will make a clinical judgment about the risk of each person’s interaction but may not fully understand the nature of primary eye care and how IPC in our sector operates.
If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace/ Test and Protect call handler, it is essential you explain to them that the contact was within a healthcare setting and to describe the PPE you were using and the IPC procedures you were following.
If you are asked how long you spent with the contact, make sure you let the call handler know BOTH the total duration of the sight test/dispense AND how long the Optom/DO were in close proximity to the patient. For many contacts, proximity will be a relatively short period of time. (Such as the time at the slit lamp, behind the slit lamp Perspex screen, fitting/adjusting of frames with the rest of the consultation performed at two meters or more.)
If you believe the call handler has incorrectly assessed the risk of the interaction, you should escalate the decision by requesting a second opinion. This is an accepted part of the internal process at NHS Test and Trace/ Test and Protect and will not cause offence.
If, after the escalation request and further discussion, it is decided you did not have a close contact and can return to work, you can then do so. However, it is a legal requirement to follow the advice of the call handler, including isolation for 14 days, even if you believe this to be an incorrect decision.
If you had to escalate a decision, or believe the advice was incorrect, please contact our ABDO Head of Policy email@example.com so we can collectively collate examples to feedback to the relevant NHS tracing service.
Updated: 2 December 2020”
The advice to practices is to ask any patient that feels unwell, in any way, to not present to the practice at all. The Government advice provided to the public is to self-isolate if they are showing symptoms that could be COVID-19 therefore patients attending optical practices for eye care should not be a risk. Practices should not deliver care to patients who have COVID-19 as they are not in supply of PPE. OFNC advises that cleaning of practices is carried out more regularly at this time and it is not unreasonable to ask patients who attend to wash their hands on entering or use hand sanitiser. The usual formal sanitising procedures should be adhered to as stated in the ABDO advice and guidelines on our website:
Principles of Cleaning, Sterilisation & Disinfection
4.4.1 There are numerous pieces of equipment that regularly come into contact with patients e.g. trial frames, chin rests, refractor heads, hand held occluders and rulers, as well as ophthalmic devices which come into direct contact with ocular tissues e.g. tonometer heads, gonioscope and other contact lenses. It is essential that they are all appropriately decontaminated, for example by wiping headrests and/or chin rests with a disinfectant wipe, to reduce the risk of transmission of infection.
There are three levels of decontamination:
Cleaning – The removal of organic and inorganic debris from a surface which might support micro-organisms and provide insulation that reduces the efficiency of disinfecting or sterilisation procedures. Detergents and ultrasonic cleaners are frequently used for cleaning purposes.
Disinfection – A treatment that reduces the number of viable micro-organisms but not necessarily bacterial spores or some viruses. Disinfection can be achieved by physical methods such as heat or by the use of chemical disinfecting agents. Chemical disinfection can be an uncertain procedure as it involves an integration between the chemical used, the micro-organism and exposure time.
Sterilisation – A treatment, which completely kills or removes all kind of micro-organisms including spores. Sterilisation can be achieved by ionising radiation, by gaseous ethylene oxide, by gaseous hydrogen peroxide, by low pressure steam and formaldehyde, by filtration, by dry heat (hot air oven) or by moist heat (autoclave).
4.4.2 To be effective all items must be physically clean before being exposed to any sterilisation or disinfection process.
4.4.3 Not all equipment, however, needs to be sterile before use and the following is a general guideline:
Sterile – Equipment introduced into a sterile body area or in contact with a break in the skin or mucous membrane.
Disinfected – Equipment in close contact with body surfaces or intact mucous membranes, such as the ocular surface e.g. tonometer heads, gonioscope and other contact lenses.
Clean – Equipment not coming into close contact with mucous membranes or sterile body areas e.g. trial frames, refractor heads.
4.4.4 Surfaces in the consulting room should be cleaned after every patient with detergent and water unless contaminated with body fluids. If contaminated with body fluids a chlorine-based disinfectant should be used. All consulting rooms should have access to a wash hand basin and it is good practice for this to be within the consulting room