Covid-19 Info & Updates
Page reviewed in October 2021
We are currently in the Amber phase of the pandemic.
15th August 2021 – Public Health England issued updated guidance on NHS staff self-isolation and return to work following COVID-19 contact.
30th July 2021 – NHS England has updated its document Suspected coronavirus (COVID-19): Important information to keep you safe while isolating at home.
22nd July 2021 – The College of Optometrists has updated its Amber phase COVID-19 guidance . Their position remains clear – practices should continue to remain open for routine services while prioritising patients on a needs and symptoms-led basis. Optometrists and other practice staff should continue to maintain comprehensive infection prevention and control procedures, including the wearing of appropriate PPE to keep patients and practice staff safe as restrictions ease across the UK. COVID-19 FAQs have also been updated. See our IPC/PPE page for more information.
They have produced a short video that answers common questions about the Amber guidance.
21st July 2021 – Optometry Today issued the article How will optometrists be affected by COVID-19 restrictions ending?
20th July 2021 – NHSE issued a Letter on arrangements for primary care from 19 July 2021 outlining its continuing expectations across primary care in relation to access, infection prevention and control, and continuing contractual/regulatory arrangements. (See our IPC/PPE) section also. The letter also advised that the NHS standard operating procedures (SOP) for optical practices for had been withdrawn, and the later statement from the joint optical bodies advised that practices should continue to follow the College of Optometrists’ ‘amber phase’ COVID-19 guidance and the GOC supporting statements for the amber phase, including advice on patient face coverings.
19th July 2021 – NHSE issued advice on Staff isolation: approach following updated government guidance. The joint optical bodies later produced a statement advising that isolation exemptions in England are unlikely to apply in primary eye care settings at this stage of the pandemic.
14th July 2021 – The government produced guidance for people who work in shops, branches, and close contact services. This guidance is also relevant to most optical practices, who will have retail spaces within them.
13th July 2021 – The College of Optometrists, ABDO, the AOP and FODO have issued guidelines on appropriate infection prevention and control measures following recent government announcements.
30th June 2021 – The suspension of the requirement for patients to sign GOS forms has been extended to 31st August 2021, and will be kept under review.
28th May 2021 – The GOC updated several of its Covid-19 statements, with some changes taking effect on 28th May and most on 21st June 2021. The statements may be viewed here.
28th April 2021 – In April 2020 NHS England agreed that, where a GOS practice was dispensing spectacles to a patient eligible for GOS 3 but had not performed a sight test because of COVID-19, it could submit a GOS 4 form. Since practices are now able to offer sight tests safely, this temporary change will come to an end after 1st May 2021. From 2nd May, contractors should submit a GOS 3 form in the usual way. The OFNC FAQs issued in April 2020, which had set out this change in Q23, have been updated accordingly.
31st March 2021 – The suspension of the requirement for patients to sign GOS forms has been extended to 30th June 2021, and will be kept under review.
25th March 2021 – The College of Optometrists refined their COVID-19 traffic light phase definitions ‘to ensure they are as clear as possible’. They went on to say that they ‘…anticipate the Amber phase guidance will continue for some period of time, and potentially for the rest of 2021’.
Important sources of information on Covid-19
In Delivering eye care in the current lockdown: your questions answered, the joint optical bodies have answered your questions on delivering eyecare during the Amber phase (includes access to a podcast).
The College of Optometrists has lots of useful information, FAQs and resources, many of which are available to non-members.
The GOC website has guidance, FAQs and statements.
The AOP has a coronavirus updates page (most of this is for members only).
ABDO has advice on Covid-19.
FODO has lots of Covid-19 guidance and support
The NHS, DHSC and PHE have developed Covid-19 guidance for health professionals and Coronavirus guidance for clinicians and NHS managers.
Also available is specific NHS guidance for primary care optical settings, which includes standard operating procedures designed to support primary care teams in managing contact with patients who suspect they may have Covid-19. (Update – This guidance was withdrawn by the NHS on 20th July 2021.)
You can search NHS coronavirus publications by keyword or date.
A poster from the NHS is available, for display outside your practice.
The joint optical bodies have produced Guidance and templates – telephone-based consultancy for replacement glasses and contact lenses.
The BCLA has produced a number of guidance documents specific to contact lens practice.
NHSE has produced COVID-19 waste management standard operating procedure.
Wellbeing support is available, free of charge, for all primary care staff, leaders and managers, both in clinical and non-clinical roles.
Guidance on Covid-19 funding support for practices is produced by the OFNC. Read their latest statement (6th March 2021) here.
The information and guidance are being updated regularly as the situation develops, and we recommend that you remain alert for any updates.