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26 May 2020

New website and official guidance

In this members update:

  1. New FODO website 
  2. Eyesight at the heart of government 
  3. How to navigate out of the lockdown 
  4. Guidance update - working safely during Covid-19 
  5. Scotland update - new PCA and road map 
  6. Wales update - restart plan 
  7. Mitigating non-Covid-19 related harms 
  8. Finance update 
  9. Other news 
    

1.  New FODO website 

FODO has launched its new website, with all the guidance and support members need to succeed. 

The website includes an up-to-date Covid-19 resource hub so members and their teams can access Covid-19 guidance and updates in one place. 

This now includes videos and posters on how to use PPEPPE at a glance table and a PPE estimator for independent practice members to estimate what they might need to order. 

We will keep adding new 'at a glance' resources to help members throughout the pandemic. 

We welcome all feedback so that we can make further improvements. If you can, please complete this survey

Members have been sent their login details separately. If you have not received them, please email [email protected].   

2.  Eyesight at the heart of government 

The Prime Minister's special adviser Dominic Cummings said he felt that his eyesight had been affected by coronavirus as his explanation for taking a drive on Easter Sunday. 

This prompted journalists to ask Boris Johnson yesterday, 25 May, including Rowena Mason of the Guardian, whether he expected people to believe Mr Cummings had to take a 60-mile round trip to test his sight. 

This prompted Mr Johnson to reply: "On the point about eyesight, I am having to wear spectacles for the first time in years", adding he thought it was "very plausible that eyesight can be a problem associated with coronavirus". 

Let us hope that both the Prime Minister and his adviser consult their optometrist - remotely - soon for some essential eye care advice and guidance.         

3.  How to navigate out of the lockdown 

If you are struggling to navigate out of the lockdown, you are not alone. 

The pandemic is a complex issue and made more complicated by all UK governments using different language, key tests, and priorities to describe how they plan to ease restrictions locally. 

To help you navigate out of the lockdown, we provide a summary of each plan, including what these have in common, and where possible what they tell us about the plan for healthcare, eye care and retail. Learn more.   

4.  Guidance update - working safely during Covid-19 

The Prime Minister announced yesterday, 25 May, that he wanted to give the retail sector notice so that it could get ready to open shops. He added that from 15 June, subject to the government's five test and premises being Covid-19 secure, all non-essential retail outlets would be allowed to reopen. This will only apply in England, with other UK countries setting their own timelines and tests. 

He also announced that retail guidance for England (working safely, shops, branches, stores or similar environments) has now been updated. This includes clarity on the types of outlets that are included in this guidance. There is also now a Five steps to working safely guide. If you have used our framework for primary eye care providers, you do not need to take any new steps at this stage. 

Please note, opticians are not non-essential retail premises and so have never been required to close in England. Instead as essential healthcare services they have had to "take into account any advice or guidance issued by regulators, the relevant professional body, Chief Professional Officers, or the NHS, as appropriate" (Reference). 

The Prime Minister's latest announcement is therefore only relevant to opticians in that it provides an indication about how the government thinks the Covid-19 infection rate will reduce further by 15 June. We will alert members as usual as soon as any new sector specific guidance is issued. 

In the meantime, Northern Ireland has published its own guidance for working safely during the pandemic. Read more. Scotland and Wales are working on sector specific guidance, to which we will alert members as soon as it is published. 

Members can work through our framework for primary eye care providers in the UK, which we will keep under review as each country publishes its own general guidance to see what, if any, additional guidance needs to be issued.     

5.  Scotland update - new PCA and road map 

New PCA 

The Scottish government has published a new PCA, which includes an update on continued financial support for community optometry. 

The update sets out how practices are crucial to the delivery of eye care in Scotland, and it is an "imperative therefore that, as far as possible, the current infrastructure and workforce are protected". The government is committed to ensuring that the future recovery plan "prioritises the safety of patients and practice staff and that this is underpinned by an appropriate model for the provision of financial support to practices". 

The PCA also confirms that the Community Eye Care website has been updated with Covid-19 emergency response clinical guidance for every condition. EyeHealth Scotland, NHS Board OAC and Optometry Scotland advise eye health professionals to use this website as their primary clinical source. 

Members providing eye care in Scotland should read the full PCA(0)2020(8)

Dr Janet Pooley, Optometric Advisor, has also written to all eye care providers in Scotland:

  • "I am writing to thank you for everything you have been doing so far during this crisis. Many of you have been conducting telephone triage and consultations, and referring patients onwards for face to face care; a service transformation that we could never have predicted just a few months ago." 

The letter also confirms the government's position that Covid-19 will be present for the "foreseeable future" and that the skills in primary eye care will be "required during the next phase as we start to reopen practices". 

She added: "Plans for the recovery phase are being developed now, and these will be shared as soon as possible. We are also working with others to implement a robust NHS supply process to practices to ensure that you have access to the appropriate PPE at the right time." 

Route map 

On Thursday 21 May, the Scottish government published Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis' - you can read a more detailed review of this route map on our website. 

The main points for primary eye care are: 

  • There will be a five-phased approached to easing the lockdown - phases 0 to 4 
  • To progress from phase 0 (lockdown) to phase 1, R must remain below 1 for at least three weeks 
  • Scotland will use the World Health Organization's (WHO) six criteria for easing lockdown and will wait until R is consistently below 1 before moving from phase 2 to phase 3 
  • To progress from phase 3 to phase 4 the virus must "effectively have ceased to be a significant issue in Scotland". 

Scotland is currently in phase 0 and will move to phase 1, if the above conditions are met, from 28 May. The situation will then be reviewed every three weeks before deciding on the next phase of the route map. 

What this means for eye care providers: 

  • Phase 0 - lockdown (current phase). Emergency eye care in the community at a limited number of sites 
  • Phase 1 - Increased provision of emergency eye care in the community 
  • Phase 2 - Aim to expand the range of optometry and ophthalmology services 
  • Phase 3 - All community optometry will reopen with social distancing safeguards 
  • Phase 4 - Full range of health and social care services provided with greater use of technology to deliver improved services to citizens. 

There will be an ongoing need for:

  • Social distancing
  • Regular hand washing 
  • Cough and sneeze etiquette 
  • Being aware of and acting on the symptoms of the virus - e.g. self-isolating based on official guidance at the time 
  • Engaging with the 'test and protect' system 
  • The use of PPE and other infection prevention and control measures.         

6.  Wales update - 'restart plan' 

The Welsh government published its roadmap out of lockdown on 15 May; you can read our analysis of Unlocking our society and economy: continuing the conversation, on our website. 

The critical points for primary eye care are: 

  • The plan explains there will be a phased approach and, before progressing to different phases, the R rate and other evidence will be assessed by the government to make sure this is safe 
  • The Welsh model has four phases - lockdown and a three-stage traffic light system. The document sets out how the traffic light system might work in different settings.  

Based on a 21 May letter sent to all NHS Wales Chief Executives for eye care, this means:

  • Lockdown - access to emergency or essential services only 
  • Red (Phase 1) - Urgent response structures in optometry will be retained. Preparations should start to de-escalate the Covid-19 action plan for all services progressively. Agree if and what level of usual funding practices receive 
  • Amber (Phase 2) - continue to roll out telephone/video consultations in primary eye care. Reinstate the optometry care that was "suspended during the outbreak and embed eye care closer to home pathways utilising optometry workforce in line with planned care programme for Glaucoma, cataract, AMD and urgent eye care"
  • Green (Phase 3) - when the R rate is stable, and it's safe to do so, retire optometry hubs established during the red phase. 

Members with practices in Wales should also have received a letter from NHS Wales on 22 May. It asks you to complete a Covid-19 self-declaration form and return to NWSSP Primary Care Services ahead of any amendments to your current trading hours/closed status. You can find all that you need to prepare at our Covid-19 resource hub.    

7.  Mitigating non-Covid-19 related harms 

The Scottish government published its route map out of lockdown last week (see below) and also highlighted the significant non-Covid-19 related harms we now need to consider as we move through phases of the pandemic. The route map signposts to this BMJ infographic which clearly sets out the impacts of Covid-19 on general health and wellbeing. It displays the wide-reaching consequences if Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 risks are not managed with care.  

8.  Finance and business update 

This includes an update on HMRC guidance, the new Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill and webinars to support businesses. 

HMRC guidance 

VAT 

Members have asked us how Covid-19 might affect VAT arrangements, so we have asked our VAT adviser Shaun King to investigate. You can now download the 'at a glance' resource from the members' area. 

HMRC - expenses and benefits provided to employees during the pandemic 

HMRC has added details about Employee Care Ownership Schemes (ECOS) to its guide about taxable expenses and benefits when they are paid to employees during the pandemic. Learn more

New online service to reclaim SSP 

HMRC will launch a new online service on 26 May to allow you to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Learn more about what you will need to make a claim. 

Maximum loan size extended to £200m 

The government has extended its maximum loan size available through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £50 million to £200 million. Read more.  

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill 

The government has now introduced its planned Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill in Parliament. The goal is to amend insolvency and company law to support businesses and address the challenges resulting from the impact of Covid-19. 

The three main aims of the Bill are to: 

  • Introduce new corporate restructuring tools to the insolvency and restructuring regime so that companies have the 'breathing space' and tools required to maximise their chance of survival
  • Temporarily suspend parts of insolvency law to support directors to continue trading through the emergency without the threat of personal liability and to protect companies from aggressive creditor action 
  • Amend company law and other legislation to provide companies and other bodies with temporary easements on company filing and annual general meetings (which will extend to charitable incorporated organisations and mutual societies), thereby allowing them to focus their resources on continuing operations at this time. 

The measures in the Bill include: 

  • Introducing a new moratorium to give companies some protection from creditors while they seek a rescue 
  • Ensuring companies going through a rescue process continue to receive supplies by prohibiting the use of termination clauses by suppliers, subject to safeguards for suppliers facing hardship and a temporary exemption for small firms during the Covid-19 emergency
  • Introducing a new restructuring plan that will bind creditors to it 
  • Temporarily removing the threat of personal liability for wrongful trading from directors who try to keep their companies afloat through the emergency 
  • Temporarily prohibiting creditors from filing statutory demands and winding-up petitions for coronavirus related debts 
  • Temporarily easing burdens on businesses by enabling them to hold closed AGMs, conduct business and communicate with members electronically, and by extending filing deadlines
  • Allowing for the temporary measures to be retrospective from their respective dates of announcement to provide as much relief to businesses as possible. 

Source: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Access detail on the Bill.                    

Free government-backed business webinars 

Government departments are hosting a series of webinars to help businesses understand the guidance and support available: 

  • To find out how to make your workplace Covid-secure, register here 

Business support helpline 

You can also now contact the government's business support helpline for free advice: 

Phone: 0800 998 1098 
Webchat: talk to an adviser using the webchat 
Phoneline and webchat open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm 

Email: [email protected] 

Find more details and helplines in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.    

9.  Other news 

 

 

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