Infection control and protecting the vulnerable remain core priorities when delivering safe eye care
As the Government’s Living with Covid strategy for England, comes into force on 24th February, Adam Sampson, Chief Executive of the Association of Optometrists said: “Two years on from the start of the pandemic, we all have to find a way to navigate the realities of living with COVID. As a key part of primary care delivery, we believe applying a degree of caution is more than justified. This is in order to continue to protect patients and optometric practice staff as we enter the new phase of clinical delivery post relaxation of COVID rules. Protecting patients, especially the most vulnerable will remain at the forefront of delivering high quality, safe patient eye care.
“Throughout the pandemic the optometric workforce has been adept at responding to challenges ranging from changing the way we practice in order to bring down infection rates to delivering additional services that relieve pressure on NHS hospital eye departments. It is the dedication and clinical skills of our members that has meant vital eye care and treatment has been available to those who need it.”
AOP Clinical Director, Dr Peter Hampson said: “The announcement from the Government, which includes the removal of free COVID tests for the public from 1 April, raises concerns about the protection of the most vulnerable in society. While the legal restrictions are ending, the moral and professional obligations remain as they have done for the last two years – and optometrists and practice teams will need to continue to take the necessary steps to reduce infection rates.
“To keep vulnerable patients safe, we believe it is essential that primary care still has access to testing. Just as vital PPE has been secured until Spring next year, we urge the Government to maintain free access to lateral flow test for practices.”
“Members of the public should continue to wear a face covering in healthcare settings as another valuable precautionary measure until data from the Office of National Statistics shows a far lower level of community infection.” Dr Hampson added.
NHS England and the Health Security Agency have published updated guidance on the self-isolation requirements and asymptomatic testing for primary care settings in England, including optometry practices and teams.
Optical practices are advised to continue to follow the College of Optometrists Amber guidance and FAQs to maintain high standards of infection control. A new Green phase guidance is currently in development.