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04 May 2020

FODO Member update

The Covid-19 situation continues to change regularly. So, further to our Friday update where we set out the importance of R and scenario planning, today's update provides further information on: 

  1. 'Restart' plan expected this week 
  2. Ophthalmology sets out 'restart' plan 
  3. PPE update 
  4. Finance update - apply for business Bounce Back Loan and new scheme 
  5. GOC update 
  6. Official advice and guidance - quick access 
  7. Other news          

1.'Restart' plan expected this week 

The government plans to publish 'post-lockdown workplace' rules this week according to the BBC. The expectation is that around 10 papers will be published between Thursday and Sunday this week, with more detail on 10 May. 

The papers are expected to include details on how businesses across a range of different environments can re-open and work safely. The categories include outdoor work, leisure and wellbeing, non-food retail, factory and industry-based work, and distribution and logistics. 

FODO has proposed to government that eye and hearing care providers should continue to be supported throughout the crisis. For example, we called for flexible furlough arrangements to continue as many of our core patients will remain self-isolating, being shielded or caught up in the care home epidemic far beyond any easing of lockdown restrictions. 

As part of this, we are constantly reviewing various scenarios on your behalf. These include the impacts of changing social distancing from 2m to 1m and introducing time variables and changing PPE requirements in primary care to achieve the best possible release from lockdown for patients, the public, staff and the range of eye care providers that make this possible. However, at this stage, while there is no new government advice, members should continue to follow College of Optometrists guidance. 

As you think about your own plans for 'restart', we would recommend you watch the full CBI webinar on 1 May. It covers key issues to consider when reopening. 

We are continuing to do all we can to make sure members and the sector are supported throughout the pandemic, so the four UK Nations and the people of the Republic of Ireland can continue to benefit from high quality eye and hearing care after the pandemic. 

We will, as previously advised, be writing to members directly with additional support and advice, in the meantime do contact us if we can help in any other way by emailing [email protected].        

2.Ophthalmology sets out 'restart' plan 

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists updated its Covid-19 resources on 2 May, including 'Reopening and redeveloping ophthalmology services during Covid-19 recovery - Interim guidance'. 

The College acknowledges that ophthalmology had capacity challenges before lockdown and that, although most ophthalmology departments have kept an emergency service going, the Covid-19 restrictions have led to concerns among both ophthalmologists and patients about delays and sight loss. The College supports a safe restart as soon as possible to minimise avoidable sight loss. 

It also recognised that the pandemic had "accelerated development of innovative ways of providing care remotely on which services can build to improve capacity problems for the future". The College highlights the need to work more closely with optical practices and flags the possibility of using optical practice facilities for some outpatient care. This signals the more pan-sectoral approach FODO has been advocating for some time. These are early green shoots that may help the sector collectively meet both the backlog of and growing levels of eye health need in more efficient ways post-crisis. 

Read the full guidance. 

The College of Optometrists has welcomed the guidance on behalf of optometry and is working with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists "to develop UK-wide clinical management principles and pathways for the recovery period". Read its statement.      

3.PPE update

PPE supplies are slowly improving and confidence among members is increasing. On 1 May, Alan Jope, CEO Unilever, also confirmed in a CBI webinar that global PPE supplies were now robust. Positive signals we all welcome. 

We appreciate, however, that matching supply and demand and quality assurance with official guidance remains challenging. Optics is not alone here. The HSJ reports that the government has "banned" NHS trusts from entering their own supply chain agreements to better coordinate PPE and other vital Covid-19 supplies. 

The government's 10 April PPE plan set forth its intention to launch a new PPE website to allow the health and care system to order from a central inventory within a few weeks. This new website is still in development.

We will issue a member alert as soon as there is an update on a new supply route for eye care providers.  

4.Finance update - including applying for business Bounce Back Loan 

Bounce Back Loan - to launch today 

HM Treasury has confirmed the Bounce Back Loan will launch today. The first year is interest free and the rate of interest for years two to six has now been set at 2.5%. If you are eligible, you can apply online from 9am today from accredited lenders
Learn more and apply now

Discretionary top-up to local business grant funds scheme 

A new top-up local business grants fund scheme is now running to help certain small businesses that have fallen outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. 

This scheme is aimed at small businesses which have ongoing fixed property-related costs and will be run by local authorities. To be eligible businesses must have fewer than 50 employees and be able to demonstrate a significant drop of income due to coronavirus restriction measures. The maximum grant will be £25,000, with local authorities having discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000.  

5.GOC update 

The GOC has confirmed that, following a review with stakeholders, its existing statements about practice during the pandemic will continue at least until 31 May 2020, after which it will carry out a further review. Read more. FODO had strongly supported this approach.   

6.Covid-19 official advice and guidance - easy access 

FODO has created a pdf resource for keeping updated with official government, public health and healthcare Covid-19 guidance

7.Other news 

We are working with OFNC partners to confirm whether and how the Department of Health and Social Care's (DHSC) position on 'death in service benefits' during the pandemic applies in primary eye care. On initial reading of the notes to editors this does apply but we will confirm this as soon as possible. 

The College of Optometrists issued a statement on 1 May expressing its concerns about a "marketing tactic" used in a recent contact lens promotion aimed at NHS workers. It urges NHS workers to consult a GOC registrant for advice and support to reduce risks. 

In other news, on 3 May, the BBC reported on business owners thinking about getting back to work, including the views of an optician. 

Prime Minster Boris Johnson will today call for an international conference to tackle the coronavirus, focusing on developing vaccines, treatments and tests. 

We remain open seven days a week to support you throughout the Covid-19 crisis. If you need us, contact us as usual at [email protected]          

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