COVID-19 latest optometry issues

Dear colleagues,

We hope you are all safe and well and we really appreciate the commitment that you are all providing to your patients during these uncertain times.

Thank you to those of you who have contacted us in regards to being open / closed however we really need to understand those who are truly open ( fulfilling contractual hours) by 16:00 today as payments calculations are starting to be pulled together as stated in the letter on 01 April 2020.

The definitions are stated below so please email england.bgsw-optom@nhs.net by 16:00 today stating your name and practice location with what you are providing based on options 1-4.

  1. You are Open

Practices who choose to remain open to deliver essential and/or urgent / emergency eye care services will be expected to have appropriate clinicians available to provide those services during the hours of GOS service provision stipulated in their contract.

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 could 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.

  1. You are Closed

If your practice is completely closed and you are not providing any essential eye care (e.g. remotely). You will not receive GOS support payments for the duration of the closure but you will be able to claim 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

  1. You are Open but with amended hours

If you are open but have amended your hours and not providing services situated in your contract then you will not receive the GOS support payments

  1. Providing essential / emergency care

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 eye care

This includes providing remote care and dispensing, and meeting the needs of those 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. All interactions with patients for essential and urgent / emergency eye care services must be fully recorded in the patient records, with appropriate annotation of COVID-19. The College of Optometrists template useful for this. 

I appreciate this is very short notice but unfortunately that seems to be the case we find ourselves in at this present time,

Kind Regards

Melissa

Melissa Kendall-Milnes

Primary Care Assistant Contract Manager

NHS England and NHS Improvement – South West (North)