New Covid-19 guidance from the College of Optometrists
The College of Optometrists has launched new tools and guidance to support effective remote triage during this phase of the pandemic.
This includes new prioritisation guidance, a flow chart and a risk stratification tool.
The College has also written the open letter published below to all primary eye care providers in the UK.
It reiterates general Covid-19 and IPC guidance and has been sent to all practices, not just those where there may be concerns with compliance.
College Open Letter
Following the national lockdowns announced in Scotland and England at the beginning of the month, and earlier lockdowns in Wales and Northern Ireland, some members of The College of Optometrists have been
in contact with us to express concerns that their employers are not following the College’s amber phase guidance or other national guidance on good clinical practice.
While it has been made clear by all UK health authorities that primary care can continue, the College’s amber phase guidance does not mean business as usual.
The safety of both practice staff and patients is paramount. Employers have a duty of care to staff and patients, and we would expect all practices to review their procedures to ensure that care is delivered in
the safest way possible, and is compliant with both the College and relevant national and local guidance.
In particular, practices should:
• prioritise emergency/urgent and essential care on a needs- and symptoms-led basis, as determined
by an optometrist
• only see patients for routine care if there is capacity to do so and if it is in their best interests, and
considering their risk of COVID-19 infection
• provide remote optometrist-led patient triage, to ascertain those who need face-to-face care and
those who can be managed remotely
• offer to defer routine appointments to asymptomatic patients at highest risk of COVID-19
• offer remote care, including dispensing, whenever possible
• maintain infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures and social distancing in practices, and
provide optometrists with suitable time between appointments to carry out IPC
• avoiding online booking unless suitable triage is in place to prioritise patients based on optical
need, and to screen them for symptoms of COVID-19
• give all staff the opportunity to update their individual COVID-19 risk assessment if they feel their
situation has changed and put in place suitable mitigations as needed.
It is key that optometrists are enabled to use their clinical judgement to assess and triage patients’ needs prior to their appointment and supported to manage them in the safest way possible. We are advising all
members who raise concerns about employers with us to notify their practice manager or professional services teams, following their practice’s ‘raising a concern’ procedure.
We ask that employers make clear the route for staff to raise their concerns if they believe that guidelines aren’t been followed, and encourage a culture where clinical staff feel safe and supported to do so.
Whilst there are a minority of clinicians and businesses that are not College members: Dispensing Opticians’ practices and Corporate ownership the message is clearly aimed at those who work in practice despite ownership and management.
The tightening of the nuances from the College on its Amber phase will assist the GOC under pressure with the ongoing petition by The OPG as well as going someway to appease the commercial/professional balance redress argued by the AIO.
It will be interesting to watch out for the membership bodies’ responses to their members, many not being College Members.
For official Covid-19 guidance from UK health authorities that covers primary eye care, here are the useful links for each devolved country:
The latest advice from the NHS/health service is below:
England. Refer to NHS England’s Covid-19 page for optical settings
Northern Ireland. Refer to the HSCB letter on 8 January 2021