Advice on Covid-19 for England – recovery funding and Leicester update 30 June

Latest advice

In recent discussions with NHS England on COVID-19 funding for optical practices in England, the OFNC has stressed the need for ongoing support in the event of local or regional lockdowns being introduced.

This morning the OFNC met NHS England again and discussed the position in Leicester. We understand that NHS England is planning to shortly confirm the next steps for all primary care providers in Leicester, including optical practices.

Meanwhile our discussions with NHS England on future COVID-19 funding for all GOS contractors in England have continued. The current arrangements end with effect from today, and contractors are understandably frustrated that NHS England has not clarified funding arrangements for the increased cost associated with NHS care from July onwards.

The OFNC continues to press NHS England for a decision on this so that practices and practitioners can focus on meeting the eye health needs of local people safely throughout the pandemic.

It has also clearly set out the additional challenges faced by domiciliary providers.

We will provide more information on all these issues, and on the outstanding issue of agreed deductions as set out in NHS England’s 1 April letter to contractors, as soon as we can.

CoO advice for practitioners in Leicester

The Secretary of State for Health has announced stricter lockdown measures in Leicester for a two week period due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the city. The College of Optometrists has recommended the following for optical practices in Leicester:

  • Practices can remain open to offer essential, urgent and emergency eye care.
  • Practices should continue to follow the College’s infection control, social distancing and PPE guidance to ensure practices remain safe.
  • Practices should prioritise services and operate on the basis they are in the red column of the College’s recovery phase table.
  • The College will liaise with NHSE/I to provide further guidance and confirm whether other areas in Leicestershire will be affected.

Read more here.

 

 

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OFNC guidance on changes to primary care in England and answers to FAQs

As set out in the statement of 1 April, this information below addresses the main questions raised by OFNC members so far about the NHS England optical letter of 1 April 2020 (001559) and other recent developments. The FAQs have been endorsed by the NHS England-Improvement optical commissioning team.

We will update this guidance as the situation develops. This version of the FAQs was updated on 18 April 2020. New questions are marked ‘[NEW]’ for ease of reference.

Updated 18 April

No, you do not have to close.

You should not offer routine sight-testing and dispensing (to avoid all unnecessary travel and person-to-person contact) but you may stay open so that your clinical team can provide:

  • essential eye care as defined in the NHS England letter, and/or
  • urgent / emergency care.

This includes providing remote advice, reviews, consultations, dispensing and contact lens supply, including to patients not entitled to GOS, in line with the College of Optometrists’ guidance on providing care during the crisis and the GOC’s guidance on the provision of spectacles and contact lenses.

No, you do not need to be physically present in the practice. Government advice is that all unnecessary travel should be avoided and person to person interaction (even if social distancing) minimised to help reduce risk for patients, staff and the wide public. ‘Open’ in these circumstances means providing essential eye care in accordance with College of Optometrists and government Covid-19 guidance. These services can be provided from home locations wherever possible.

The key to being ‘open’ is that patients must be able to contact the practice during normal opening hours, but this can be by phone or email – for instance you could divert your practice landline to an alternative number, or provide an answerphone message asking patients to contact a mobile phone or to send you an email.  Calls and emails should be managed promptly and efficiently in line with the importance of providing an essential service.

Please see FAQ 3 below for more on meeting patients’ needs during the crisis. Direct input from practitioners may require scheduling in order to accommodate demand and practitioner availability. Appropriate clinicians should be available to deliver face-to-face services where clinically necessary, subject to confirming the patient and other household members have no COVID-19 symptoms, and following College of Optometrists guidance including on the use of PPE. Face-to-face consultations should take place at the patient’s normal practice unless:

  • there are reasons preventing this in a particular case (such as lack of PPE), or
  • in the particular circumstances another location is requested by the patient.

NHSE has advised that where possible remote reviews and consultations (via phone or video) should be available to prevent the need for patients to attend the practice in person. The College of Optometrists guidance on providing care during the crisis advises that you should operate a locked-door policy and admit patients for pre-booked appointments only. The College has published guidance on conducting remote consultations.

If practice attendance is required, you should double-check whether the patient or any household member has symptoms of COVID 19. If they have, the patient should be treated via alterative local pathways as appropriate. If they have not, the face-to-face consultation should take place at the patient’s normal practice unless:

  • there are reasons preventing this in a particular case (such as lack of PPE), or
  • in the particular circumstances another location is requested by the patient.

Practices may need to exercise flexibility around opening hours in response to patient demand, staff availability, self-isolating, infection control and PPE availability during the course of the crisis, especially those practices that might otherwise operate extended hours. Contractors are required to deliver their total contracted hours and should maintain up to date details on their practice website, so that patients know when and how to contact them. Practices should keep their local area team informed of any temporary changes.

You also have the option of changing your standard NHS contractual opening hours via the formal contract variation process. However, this is unlikely to be necessary throughout the crisis unless you plan to do so permanently.

If a contractor chooses to cease operations entirely, they should notify their regional commissioner, and support payments will stop for this period.

You can find a form to assist you in online contact lens consultations here: Contact-lens-telephone-review-form-19-March-2020

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England-Improvement are aware that it is difficult to access all necessary supplies of PPE at the present time. If you cannot access the correct PPE for the services you offer at any point, you should temporarily stop face-to-face contacts in line with College of Optometrists guidelines which state:

  • “if you are unable to get the PPE to enable you to see patients according to national guidance, you should not conduct face-to-face consultations at a distance of less than 2m. We realise that this means that in most cases you will be unable to see patients. However, you can provide other services that do not require face-to-face contact, such as supplying spectacles or contact lenses by post, or offering telephone or video advice.” Updated: 9 April 2020

The safety of patients and staff should be your top priorities during the crisis. If you cannot access the correct PPE you should continue to offer essential care remotely, and work with other providers with PPE for face-to-face consultations where it is clinically necessary and safe to do so. The NHS will recognise that your practice remains open if you are working to official and best practice Covid-19 guidelines, and you will continue to receive GOS grant funding provided you provide essential care remotely during normal hours.

The government is working to improve supplies and distribution of PPE. It is important that when you do get access to PPE that you follow DHSC advice and use it “only where there is a clinical need to do so”. Learn more in the DHSC PPE plan.

We are aware that NHS England area teams have issued requests for information about practices’ opening arrangements in different formats. These OFNC FAQs have been endorsed by the NHS England optical commissioning team. If you have any difficulty in explaining your arrangements to your area team, please refer them to these FAQs.

For the avoidance of doubt, you are open to provide essential care if you meet the requirements set out in FAQ 2, 3 and 4 above. In particular:

  • You do not need to be physically present in the practice during your normal opening hours for GOS services, but patients must be able to contact the practice during those hours – this can be by phone or email.
  • Appropriate clinicians should be available to deliver face-to-face services where clinically necessary, in line with College of Optometrists guidance including on the use of PPE. Face-to-face consultations should take place at the patient’s normal practice unless there are reasons preventing this in a particular case (such as lack of PPE), or in the particular circumstances another location is requested by the patient.
  • Where possible you should use remote reviews and consultations rather than face-to-face, in line with official public health, NHS and College of Optometrists guidance
  • All consultations must be conducted by an appropriately qualified member of staff.
  • The GOS support covers essential eye care. It does not cover urgent and emergency care and therefore the hours in which you provide urgent and emergency services will not have any impact on your eligibility for GOS support
  • It is accepted that you may need to exercise flexibility around opening hours during the crisis. You are required to deliver your total contracted hours and keep the local area team informed of any temporary changes

NHS England has no plans either to force practices to close or to remain open. The aim is to direct all patients who need essential eye care to optical practices during the crisis, to meet their care needs and keep pressure off other parts of the NHS. If undersupply occurs, NHS England or CCGs may work through LOCs to ask practices to volunteer to reopen if they can. In most cases, we expect practices will continue to offer essential eye care and support their own patients.

The NHS has also now developed a Covid-19 urgent and emergency eye service, see CUES below.

No, you do not need to get permission to stay open or to inform your NHS England regional team.

Yes, as long as your practice is open during your contracted hours and able to provide essential eye care through deploying the skills of the appropriate member of the team as required.

If your practice is completely closed and you are not providing any essential care (e.g. remotely), you will not receive GOS support payments for the duration of the closure. You will be able to claim any general Government business support for which you are eligible, such as business grants and payments under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

Some practices closed when the government introduced a general lockdown, and others postponed all activity because of the uncertainty around PPE and changing public health advice during the initial escalation phase. If you closed for these reasons this does not mean you have to remain closed. See question 7, you do not need to seek permission to re-open.

You should notify your NHS area team of the date you re-opened, and log the period in which you were closed so that period can be deducted from your GOS support payment.

Depending on the progress of the COVID-19 crisis, NHS England regional teams may need to work with optical practices, LOCs, and CCGs to ensure that practice opening arrangements continue to protect public health and ensure appropriate and adequate levels of care – particularly urgent and emergency care. See the FAQs on urgent and emergency care below.

In the same way as any other practice as above.  People who cannot leave home unaided will need essential eye care during the crisis the same way as everyone else.

Remote essential care (including symptom relief) should be provided.  This may involve advising and working with and through other clinicians (e.g. nurses, visiting GPs), trained care workers or carers who are admitted into the home. In the case of lost or broken glasses, consider using any available evidence such as broken glasses, old prescriptions and previous records to enable emergency replacements to be supplied.

Where there is an urgent or emergency eye care issue, you should coordinate the best possible response for each individual by working collaboratively with ophthalmology and the patient’s GP.

If you continue to provide essential care in line with official public health advice and College of Optometrists guidance, you will receive a monthly payment based on your average monthly GOS claims for the period from March 2019 to February 2020. This will include voucher claims. Where your actual GOS claims during the crisis exceed this level, you will be paid the additional claims in the usual way.

This is a grant payment, not a loan. It will be subject to a reduction for variable costs associated with service delivery, which will be agreed with the OFNC. We will provide more information about this process as soon as we can.

The GOS grant is not for COVID-19 urgent and emergency care provided under (CUES), which is funded separately.

NHS England has said average fees will be calculated on a fair and reasonable basis taking into account your average monthly GOS claims during the period your practice has been open

The OFNC will agree this with NHS England. We will provide further information as soon as we can.

You do not need to apply for the support  and will receive it automatically as long as your NHS England area team knows you are open for the purpose of providing essential care.

If your NHS England area team knows you are open, it will write to you shortly with the calculated value of your monthly payment. You will then be automatically paid this amount by PCSE in line with your normal payment schedule. Your area team will have your GOS claims payment history and will be able to deal with any queries about the value of the payment.

The first support payment will cover March 2020, and will top up any GOS claims you submitted for March to the value of your average monthly claims. You will then receive the same payment each month until further notice. During this period, PCSE have requested that contractors continue to submit GOS claims as normal. This will not affect the value of the monthly payments, except in the unlikely event that your claims exceed the value of the monthly payment.

NHS England wants to ensure that where it continues to pay contractors to provide essential care during the crisis, those contractors do not also receive a separate contribution from general Government financial support which directly covers the cost of providing essential GOS – in other words, they do not want the Government to pay twice for the same thing.

If you receive general Government support while providing essential care under these arrangements, which will likely be the situation for most practice owners, you should keep records to show that the general support is not being used to fund the costs of providing essential care, which will be separately funded through GOS. Other FAQs in this section set out the OFNC’s understanding of how the NHS England support relates to different forms of general Government support.

You can furlough any staff on PAYE who are not involved in providing essential care. Staff who are involved in providing essential care – even on a voluntary or part-time basis – cannot be furloughed under the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Business grants are linked to premises and applied automatically, so this grant does not have to be claimed. Business grants are provided because of the general impact of the crisis on qualifying businesses and are not linked to essential NHS care.

NHS funding is for essential NHS eye care and to ensure the primary eye care infrastructure is maintained after the crisis period. NHS England has said it intends to run a reconciliation process to check practices have only received an appropriate level of support during the crisis, and that it will work with the OFNC to agree a proportionate and workable process.

Given how the vast majority of optical practices operate, it is clear that any business rates relief and/or grants will be support for the impact of the crisis on their general business activities and not clinical care, in the same way as for other businesses receiving the support.  In the OFNC’s view there will therefore be no overlap between the NHS support and the general business grant support, except in the unlikely event that your income during the crisis, from the NHS support for essential eye care and business grants combined, is greater than it would have been under normal circumstances.

The general government income support scheme for the self-employed is new and complex, and the rules are still evolving, so the OFNC cannot yet give firm guidance on this question. The sector representative bodies will provide further guidance as the rules are clarified.

In principle we think self-employed practice owners who are providing essential care and receiving NHS England financial support may also be able to claim for support under the self-employed scheme, provided that (i) they meet all the eligibility criteria for the scheme, and (ii) they can show they have suffered ‘lost profits’ relating to private sales and services, including non-voucher dispensing, private sight tests and contact lens appointments, and any other sources of income that are not from GOS.

Anyone claiming self-employed support in these circumstances should satisfy themselves that they can show the support has not been used to cover the costs of providing essential care, and may wish to seek accountancy advice.

For GOS 1, we recommend that where you provide a remote consultation (and where necessary, a dispense) but don’t perform a sight test, you should not submit a GOS 1 claim but should maintain records and make a note of the activity. If you do perform a sight test, you should submit a signed GOS 1 claim in the usual way, using social distancing and hygiene procedures.

For GOS 3 and 4 claims, NHS England has advised the OFNC that during the crisis claims can be submitted without a patient signature provided the form is annotated ‘COVID-19’ wherever a patient signature is needed. GOS 4 claims for adults should be pre-authorised by the NHS Business Services Authority (see below).

If you are dispensing spectacles to a patient eligible for GOS 3 but you have not performed a sight test, you should submit a GOS 4 form rather than a GOS 3. During the crisis GOS 4 authorisation has been extended to cover any adult (not just those with illness-related loss as previously) meeting the following criteria:

  • Adults who are clinically deemed by a qualified clinician to require the dispensing of a spectacle prescription, determined without a face-to-face consultation
  • Adults who would have otherwise been eligible for a GOS3
  • The damaged or lost spectacles to have been older than 2 years if issuing exactly the same prescription as before.

 

The form should not be signed by the patient but annotated ‘COVID-19’. If the dispense is for an adult, the GOS 4 form will also need pre-authorisation from the NHS Business Services Authority. You should contact them on nhsbsa.paos@nhs.net or on 0300 330 9403, and they will give you a unique claim code to enter on the GOS 4 form.

No. The GOS grant is for essential care only. You only need to provide urgent or emergency NHS care if you have an existing or new contract to do so.

NHS England, LOCSU and the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning have developed a new framework for urgent primary eye care during the crisis, the COVID-19 Urgent Eye Care Service (CUES). This will be commissioned through CCGs. NHS England regional teams will work with CCGs, LOCs and optical practices to ensure the availability of appropriate levels of eye care across England.

The new CUES framework is not a MECS service. Where MECS services are already commissioned by CCGs, they are already being changed to support the delivery of urgent eye care from optical practices.

No. The CUES framework is based on risk stratification.  Many patients will still only need a remote telephone or video consultation by a suitably qualified GOC registrant to assess and manage patients.

This may lead to further steps including remote advice from an optometrist, Independent Prescriber or ophthalmologist, to remote prescribing or follow-up, or to a face-to-face consultation in an optical practice where appropriate. The CUES face-to-face consultation need not be provided by the practice that provided the initial CUES remote consultation.

A remote review is part of essential care. A patient contacts the practice with concerns about their vision or eye health and an appropriately qualified member of  staff asks a series of questions to assess whether the patient has an essential, urgent or emergency eye problem which requires a remote consultation..

Remote consultation can be part of essential care or urgent and emergency care, depending on clinical need and risks to sight and health. This is provided by a suitably qualified GOC registrant and will involve all the elements of a normal consultation, except that face-to-face tests and procedures cannot be performed.

Yes, CLOs with MECS accreditation can deliver remote reviews, remote consultations and face-to-face consultations in line with their accreditation.

At times there may be a need to concentrate face-to-face care in a limited number of hub practices, for both practical and public health reasons. These include access to suitable PPE, the presence of sufficient clinical staff (who may need to be drawn from a range of local practices to work in a single hub if the crisis affects staff availability), and premises that enable the required level of social distancing and infection control protocols at that time in the pandemic. The locations used for these hubs may need to change as the pandemic progresses.

If it is decided that a hub practice is needed in a given area, the location would be identified by the relevant CCG in consultation with LOCs. Hub locations should be selected bearing in mind local patient demographics, and local volumes and channels of service delivery.

CUES will be contracted locally by CCGs, and fees will be agreed between CCGs and LOCs. The OFNC has asked NHS England-Improvement which developed the CUES framework to make recommendations on the urgency of commissioning CUES and support CCGs with an indication of the factors to be taken into account in agreeing fees.

The NHS has published guidance on deploying the clinical and non-clinical optical workforce to support the NHS clinical delivery plan for COVID-19. This sets out the scope for members of the optical workforce who are not providing NHS eye care during the crisis to take on other optical or non-optical roles.  There will be no obligation on anyone to take on another NHS role – it is a matter of personal choice.

Self-employed members of the optical workforce who are not engaged to provide essential or urgent eye care services can volunteer for temporary roles during the crisis:

  • on a remunerated basis (rates to be agreed by locally) e.g. in eye casualty or other clinical roles
  • on a non-remunerated basis under the NHS Volunteer Responders or other schemes, where they will receive compensation such as travel and subsistence without affecting their access to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme entitlements.

Employed members of the non-NHS optical workforce, including people who are furloughed, can volunteer for temporary roles:

  • on a remunerated basis in line with their contract of employment (checking with their employer) and the rules of the furlough scheme where relevant.
  • on a non-remunerated basis under the NHS Volunteer Responders or other schemes, where they will receive compensation such as travel and subsistence. This will not affect the income of furloughed staff.

The main optical sector indemnity cover providers (ABDO, AOP and FODO) have prepared separate Q&A to explain the insurance arrangements for the roles performed by the optical workforce during the COVID-19 crisis. You can read these Q&A here.

The NHS guidance on deploying the optical workforce acknowledges that Death in Service cover would need to be provided. Our understanding is that the Government is considering the arrangements for this and expects to provide more information soon.

This will depend on the terms of the existing cover. Anyone who has such cover and is considering taking on another role for the duration of the crisis should review the terms of their cover and talk to their cover provider if necessary.

For guidance on the other practical issues raised by the NHS England letter, including:

  • How do I provide remote consultations?
  • How do I provide emergency dispensing and supply?
  • Where can I find out more about infection control to maintain my practice environment?
  • Where do I find the latest information and recommendations on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
  • How can I obtain PPE?

Please see the COVID-19 guidance of the College of Optometrists,  the General Optical Council and official PPE hub.

This Q&A has been prepared by the main optical sector indemnity cover providers (ABDO, AOP and FODO) to explain the insurance arrangements for the roles performed by optical workforce during the COVID-19 crisis.

You will be covered by your existing indemnity arrangements, as long as you remain GOC registered and your work is within the scope of normal optometric, dispensing and contact lens practice. If your role or duties have changed and you have concerns about the scope of your work, you should discuss this with your line manager or contact your indemnity provider.

You will continue to be covered by your existing indemnity arrangements, as long as your work is within the scope of normal optometric dispensing and contact lens practice. If your role or duties have changed and you have concerns about the scope of your work, you should discuss this with your line manager/practice manager/practice owner or contact your indemnity provider.

Indemnity cover for any temporary optical role in the NHS should be arranged by the NHS[1].

Before taking on the role you need to obtain confirmation from the organisation in which you are due to begin work that your work is covered by the relevant scheme. This will ensure that you are indemnified for all the work you do in your temporary role.

[1] The arrangements for this will vary across the UK. Relevant indemnity schemes include the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts in England, and the Clinical Negligence and Other Risk Indemnity Scheme in Scotland. In Wales indemnity will be arranged through the health body in command and control of the activities performed. Arrangements for Northern Ireland are still to be confirmed.

Since you will not be working as an optometrist/dispensing optician, you will not be covered by your existing indemnity arrangements. You will therefore need to be covered by NHS indemnity arrangements. You should:

  • Obtain confirmation from the organisation in which you are working that your work is covered by the relevant scheme
  • Not be identified or describe yourself to patients or colleagues in your new role as an optometrist or dispensing optician, to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.

Since you will not be working as an optometrist/dispensing optician, you will not be covered by your existing indemnity arrangements. You should:

  • Obtain confirmation from the organisation in which you are working that your work is covered by suitable indemnity arrangements
  • Not be identified or describe yourself to patients or colleagues in your new role as an optometrist or dispensing optician, to avoid confusion or misunderstanding.

 

Contractors and practitioners should direct further questions to their representative bodies, using the email addresses below, so that the bodies can consolidate queries to inform more detailed guidance and FAQ resources as required:

 

LOCs can also raise LOC matters via LOCSU by emailing info@locsu.co.uk where they will be fed into the central process.

More information

NHS England has belatedly announced immediate changes to the delivery and operation of primary eye care services in England.

The announcement includes details of support payments for practices which continue to provide essential care for patients during the COVID-19 crisis. These practices will be expected to follow guidance from the General Optical Council and the optical sector bodies on how to provide this care safely. The support payments will be based on average past General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) payments between March 2019 and February 2020.

The OFNC, LOCSU and others are now working urgently with NHS England to put in place local urgent and emergency care services where these do not already exist in primary eye care.

The OFNC has repeatedly called for urgent financial support to offset the catastrophic impact the crisis continues to have on optical practices, with all routine sight testing suspended in line with public health guidance and many practices being forced to close their doors.

The primary eye care community in England has stood ready to play its full part in supporting people with essential,  urgent and emergency eye care needs throughout this crisis. Today’s announcement should provide a vital lifeline so that patients continue to benefit from eye health services. We are seeing the detail for the first time today, and the proposed stability funding appears to differ from that available in other parts of the UK in a number of ways. The OFNC will work with stakeholders to support all practices that are able to continue to offer care to their local population during the crisis.  We will provide more guidance this week.

OFNC Chair Paul Carroll said:

“The crisis has placed a great burden on frontline practitioners and practices across England. Today’s announcement throws the sector a lifeline even though there is a lot of detail to work through. The new support must be used to help more practices keep running through this very difficult time, and to reduce pressure on GPs and hospitals.

“We look forward to working together with the primary care optical team at NHS England to make sure practices can access support as quickly as possible”

The OFNC will work with NHS England to clarify these arrangements and provide further guidance as needed throughout the crisis. Contractors and practitioners should direct questions to their representative bodies, using the email addresses below, so that the bodies can consolidate queries to inform more detailed guidance and FAQ resources as required:

LOCs can also raise LOC matters via LOCSU by emailing info@locsu.co.uk where they will be fed into the central process.

The OFNC will work in close partnership with the College of Optometrists, GOC and LOCSU to ensure all bases are covered.

The Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee

The Optical Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) is the national negotiating body for eye care in the UK and England with the Westminster Parliament, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS England-NHS Improvement.   It comprises the leaders of the UK representative bodies: ABDO, AOP, FODO and BMA (for OMPs) and works in partnerships with the College of Optometrists and the General Optical Council.

Read the full letter here: NHS support for optical practices in England_ 1 April 2020

OFNC statement on GOS support in England – 27 March

COVID-19 – Patient care at growing risk as NHS England ignores optics

NHS England’s failure to act is forcing hundreds of optical pracices to close, with a direct and dangerous impact on the eye healthcare of patients in England during the COVID-19 crisis, the OFNC warned today.

Optical practices in other parts of the UK, as well as pharmacists and dentists, have already been offered emergency NHS funding to enable them to continue providing urgent and essential care during the COVID-19 crisis. But NHS England has given no guidance to practices in England on their role during the crisis, despite constant pressure from the OFNC.

The OFNC and its member bodies, along with others in the optical sector across the UK, have stepped in to fill the gap where we can, issuing guidance on what services practices should provide during the crisis. However, we cannot fill the void the NHS has left on the problem of funding.

Optical practices have had to stop routine sight testing in line with public health guidance. That means the vast majority of their income has vanished overnight. Like other NHS providers, they need a financial lifeline to help patients and the public – who will otherwise be forced down higher-risk pathways to A&E.

The NHS in all parts of the UK except England has recognised the vital role optical practices can play in providing urgent and essential eye care to patients during this crisis, and keeping patients away from overstretched GPs and hospitals. This is even more vital now that the Royal College of Ophthalmologists has recommended hospital eye departments reduce their clinical activity by 80-90%.

With no certainty of NHS funding during the crisis, hundreds of optical practices have already closed their doors and many more will follow in the next few days. On Wednesday OFNC wrote to Ministers and NHS England warning that “many optical practices in England are now in complete despair”. We have published the letter here.

Today OFNC Chair Paul Carroll said “Eye care patients are now at serious risk because of blockages somewhere in the NHS England system. We are now asking Ministers to intervene urgently to sort this out, so we can help the public with eye and vision problems during this national crisis.”

The Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee

The Optical Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) is the national negotiating body for eye care in the UK and England with the Westminster Parliament, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS England-NHS Improvement.   It comprises the leaders of the UK representative bodies: ABDO, AOP, FODO and BMA (for OMPs) and works in partnerships with the College of Optometrists and the General Optical Council

23rd March OFNC Advice to all Optical Practices and Practitioners in England

OFNC has issued advice to the sector in England setting out

  • that providers should no longer be offering or providing routine sight tests even as a matter of clinical judgement as previously
  • that providers should be focusing on contingency plans to provide essential and urgent eye care to those who need throughout the crisis without putting staff at risk
  • that this does not mean all practices should remain open if this is not possible and those that can may well operate on a remote consultation/advice only basis
  • initial thoughts on the meaning of ‘essential’ and ‘urgent’ in this context which many change over time.

OFNC statement 20-03-23

 

Coronavirus – your questions answered

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Taking action against fake news

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The measures include search engine Google pointing people first to verified NHS guidance when someone types in ‘coronavirus treatments’ or ‘coronavirus symptoms’. The NHS is also working with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to verify or ‘blue tick’ over 800 accounts belonging to NHS organisations including hospital trusts and local commissioning groups.

Information for those working in the NHS

Guidance for health professionals

We are keeping the NHS up to date with regular webinars, guidance and bulletins. Our coronavirus website is the go-to-place for the latest guidance for the NHS: england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/

Primary care

Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Medical Director for Primary Care is regularly writing to colleagues in general practice to provide the latest information. You can find her updates in the primary care section of our coronavirus website: england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/primary-care

Secondary care

Guidance for those working in secondary care is on our website: england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/secondary-care

This has recently been updated with guidance for hospital chief pharmacists on managing medicines supply.

 

Updated 03/03/2020

NHS England and NHS Improvement have issued standard operating procedures (SOP) in relation to coronavirus.  The information can be accessed using the following link.

The SOP is to support the interim guidance published by Public Health England on 25th February.  This guidance can be accessed here.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has uploaded a course online which takes approximately 1 hour to complete.

The content within the course includes:

Module 1: Preparedness, readiness and IPC:

  • Provides an overview of Infection Prevention and Control measures for preparedness and readiness.

Module 2: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19): its epidemiology, risk factors, definitions and symptomology:

  • Provides an introduction to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Module 3: Standard precautions, transmission-based precautions & COVID-19 specific recommendations:

  • Reviews various precautions which should be taken to prepare for and respond to COVID-19.

Posters and patient information leaflets can be accessed from the Public Health England resource site.

We hope this information is helpful and will advise members of any updates as we receive them.

 

The World Health Organisation has declared the Coronavirus a public health emergency.

UK Government advice can be found here.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that regulation (Health Protection Coronavirus Regulations 2020) has been put in place to impose restrictions on individuals considered by health professionals to be at risk of spreading the virus. These regulations provide NHS staff, dealing with possible cases of the virus, the power to keep individuals in isolation where they are a threat to public health.

A public information campaign has been launched by the Department of Health on how individuals can protect themselves from infection.  The advice is to:

  • always carry tissues and use them to catch coughs and sneezes, and bin the tissue
  • wash hands with soap and water, or use sanitiser gel, to kill germs

Our advice is to make all staff aware of the information above and keep themselves aware of the updates using the link provided.  Staff should also share the information with any patients they have contact with, who they think may be affected or at risk due to recent travel etc. and advise them to eek advice online.

ABDO welcomes Public Health England (PHE) new guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which now includes the optical workforce who are providing face to face appointments for essential and urgent care where clinically necessary. The new guidance recommends that clinicians should assess the risk of infection to themselves and their patients. If they consider there is an infection risk, then for the direct care or assessment (within 2 metres) of a patient who is not a possible or confirmed COVID-19 case they should wear gloves and an apron, and consider wearing a surgical mask and eye or face protection.

ABDO recommends that all clinicians conducting a face to face appointment within 2 meters of a patient should choose to wear the recommended PPE.  ABDO is working with AOP, FODO, LOCSU and NHS England to acquire PPE for optical practices through the NHS supply chain.  PPE has already been provided to some optical practices throughout Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Click here to view more Government information about Recommended PPE for primary outpatient community and social care by setting

Watch this video for how to add and remove PPE.

 

Members who do not have a current contract with NHS supply chains to dispose of PPE through that channel shouldfollow the advice here: Disposal of PPE

For further information on infection control please see UK Government information on coronavirus infection prevention and control.

CCGs that commission MECS have agreed to proceed to offering remote consultations for MECS where possible within current contracts. Following all the announcements – Primary Eyecare Services have outlined that all MECS should have a telephone/video consultation in the first instance and face to face arranged where necessary.

Practices should note the triage form is in addition to the usual clinical triage forms used in various parts of the country.

ABDO can confirm that the professional indemnity we provide to our MECS accredited CLOs will cover the provision of MECS services in this way during the COVID-19 situation.  All record keeping should include information to support the decision made in how care is delivered.

An example of one telemedicine guide from the Primary Eyecare Company can be found here: Telemedicine Guidance