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24 July 2020

FODO’s Friday roundup – sector news


1. Face coverings update
2. Changes to GOS forms - England
3. Get involved - live sector consultations
4. GOC council meeting update


1. Face coverings update

As we reported last week, the wearing of face coverings is now mandatory in shops in England. However, the legislation for England was only passed yesterday, and this has led to some confusion.

Initially, it was anticipated that, as in Scotland, the use of face coverings might also be mandatory in optical practices. Nevertheless, the England legislation expressly excludes health premises such as opticians and audiology practices from the requirement to wear face coverings. Part 2 of the regulations lists the exemptions. 

The College of Optometrists has helpfully clarified the exemptions to mean "it won't be possible to legally enforce the wearing of face coverings; practices can ask all patients who come in to do so voluntarily (unless they are exempt)" in England.

Nevertheless, College advice remains practices should encourage service users to use face coverings, and also "request that a patient removes their face covering for any part of the examination where it affects the ability of a practitioner to perform the sight test or consultation".

Read the College's full advice

As previously reported, face coverings have been mandatory in opticians premises in Scotland since 10 July, unless individuals are exempt based on age or other medical grounds.  

This week, the Northern Ireland Executive decided to make the wearing of face coverings mandatory in shops from 20 August. The detail is still to be published, but at this stage, we know that the government is not asking employees, children under 13 (age 11 in England), and those who cannot wear them on health grounds to wear face coverings. 

We await guidance from the Welsh Government and will update members as soon as possible.


2. Changes to GOS forms - England

The NHS has confirmed that current GOS forms will cease on 30 September 2020, with practices encouraged to submit claims online and those that cannot do so to complete new style paper forms from 1 October, designed to be scanned in on receipt by PCSE. Read more.


3. Get involved - live sector consultations 

FODO is currently developing several important consultation responses on your behalf. If you wish to feed into this process, please email the policy team directly [email protected]

  • GOC CET consultation. As reported before, this consultation will review the GOC's proposal to introduce changes to the existing CET scheme, making it more flexible and less prescriptive. If you have any comments you would like to feed into FODO so we can reflect this in our submission, please send them to the policy team by 7 August. You might also wish to take part in online discussion groups held by the GOC to discuss registrant feedback in greater detail. Registrants who take part in the online discussion group will receive a £25 Amazon voucher. Learn more.  
  • HM Treasury review of business rates. The government is undertaking a fundamental review of business rates and has now called for views "on how the business rates system currently works, issues to be addressed, ideas for change and a number of alternative taxes". We advise members who are interested in this consultation to contact the policy team by 14 August so that you can be involved in our work ahead of the 18 September and 31 October deadlines.  

FODO is also currently covering the following on behalf of members Comprehensive Spending Review 2020, pension and tax relief administration: call for evidence and the tax administration strategy to see whether detailed submissions on behalf of the sector are necessary.


4. GOC council meeting update

The GOC this week published an update on its 15 July Council meeting. The Council discussed the GOC's strategic plan and annual report, the Education Strategic Review (ESR) and temporary changes to optometry education and training requirements.

The GOC has confirmed it will use reserves of up to £315,000 over nine years, starting 2021, to support two schemes. The first is longitudinal research to measure the effectiveness of outcomes and standards for GOC approved qualifications on new registrants' competence, confidence and capability. The second is a "knowledge exchange/ information hub to facilitate cross-sector knowledge-led collaborations in supporting programme leaders and academic faculty to design innovative, integrated qualifications that meet GOC outcomes and standards, reducing the risk of poorly designed education programmes failing to meet GOC standards."

The GOC Council, commenting on the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), said: "Since 2014 there has been an almost 260% increase in enquiries received alongside an almost 60% reduction in costs providing excellent value for money for the GOC. OCCS Annual Report will be published on the OCCS and GOC website in due course." The OCCS has explained the story behind the data, showing a substantial year-on-year increase in complaints related to eye examination in its annual report. 

Read more about the Council meeting.   

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