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07 August 2020

FODO’s Friday roundup – sector news

This week's news

1. College of Optometrists updates contact lens guidance
2. PPE Portal for England opens to GOS contractors
3. NHS Mail Accounts England
4. CET claim window now open - England
5. Face coverings update - Northern Ireland
6. Optometry Wales - update on finance and survey
7. Opticians remain open during Aberdeen lockdown
8. GOC corporate bodies registration
9. NHS England sets out plan for phase three of the Pandemic
10. Education Strategic Review - GOC responds to ABDO
11. Other sector news

 

1. College of Optometrists updates contact lens guidance

Routine contact lens fitting can recommence during the amber phase of the pandemic, the College of Optometrists has helpfully confirmed today. The news follows a College consultation on its pandemic guidance.

Read the full statement for more details on precautions the College recommends should be taken to reduce the risk of virus transmission during contact lens fitting and teaches.     

 

2. PPE Portal for England opens to GOS contractors 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will be extending access to its PPE portal to GOS contractors throughout the week commencing Monday 17 August. This will allow practices to access PPE funded by the DHSC for GOS. 

To access PPE via the portal you must have an NHS mail (nhs.net) account. You will then be invited to order from the portal by the DHSC Customer Support Team. 

If you do not yet have an NHS mail account you should sign up now.    

 

3. NHS Mail Accounts England 

NHS England has asked OFNC to encourage all contractors/practices to sign up for an NHS email account (see PPE story above) and has asked the other contractor professions representative bodies to do the same. Your mailbox will be a shared one, which means you can have at least two different users for the account. 

Not only is an NHS email address essential for accessing the PPE portal, but it is likely to become an important channel for direct communication with primary care contractors in future. 

To set up an nhs.net account you will need to complete the NHS England Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT). However to encourage practices to sign up, the requirement to complete the DSPT has been suspended until September. In reality, however, this is unlikely to be enforced until January 2021. 

If you have any questions about the process or experience any problems you can contact [email protected] for support and advice. 

 

4. CET claim window now open - England 

The claims window for the CET grant for 2019 is now open. You have until 30 November to complete the process. This year you must submit claims using the PCSE Online portal and members are advised to read the guide to submitting claims online

Read more.    

 

5. Face coverings update - Northern Ireland 

Due to an increase in the rate of Covid-19 infections in Northern Ireland, wearing face coverings will be mandatory in shops 10 days earlier than originally planned

The Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed that from Monday 10 August "it will be mandatory to wear a face covering in a shop or shopping centre, or any indoor public space where it is not possible to maintain social distancing". We are still awaiting confirmation if this will apply to optical practices, but at this stage would advise members to plan on the assumption that it will. 

Some people will be exempt from the mandatory use of face masks but might still choose to wear them. This includes individuals who:  

  • Have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means they cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • Could find putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause severe distress
  • Are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.

It is important to be mindful that the reasons for not wearing a face covering may not always be visible. Read more.   

 

6. Optometry Wales - update on finance and survey 

The Welsh Government has today written to primary eye care providers to confirm they will continue to receive average NHS payments until nearly the end of August (24.08.2020), after which local financial support will cease and claims will be paid in the usual way. Read more

Optometry Wales (OW) has also launched a survey to assess the capacity and willingness to provide Diabetic Eye Screening Service Wales (DESW) during the pandemic. OW reminds providers that diabetic patients are at higher risk of Covid-19, which providers might consider as part of responding to the survey. Take part in the survey.   

 

7. Opticians remain open during Aberdeen lockdown 

This week Aberdeen was the first city in Scotland to be put into a local lockdown due to rising Covid-19 cases. Optometry Scotland has confirmed however that primary eye care is not affected by these measures and that practices should continue to provide care in line with the latest PCA.   

 

8. GOC corporate bodies registration 

The GOC will be writing shortly to a small number of corporate body registrants to ensure that GOC registrants make up a simple majority of directors on the board (i.e. at least one more registrant than any other type of director). This follows a routine review of corporate body registrants by the GOC against Companies House records. The GOC will give registrants 28 days to rectify any issues, followed by a statutory 28 days' notice of intention to deregister if a simple majority of registrants has not been implemented. 

Members are reminded that under the Opticians Act 1989, protected titles including "Optician(s)" cannot be legally used without GOC registration. Members can write to [email protected] if they are contacted by the GOC and need further advice.    

 

9. NHS England sets out plan for phase three of the Pandemic 

The NHS wrote to providers and commissioners late on Friday 31 July about plans for phase three of its Covid-19 response. 

The letter advises community optometry services to "restore activity to usual levels where clinically appropriate and reach out proactively to clinically vulnerable patients and those whose care may have been delayed". The letter also advises NHS trusts to use the period to accelerate a "return to near-normal levels of non-Covid health services, making full use of the capacity available in the 'window of opportunity' between now and winter". Read the full letter

Members are not required to take any additional actions in response to this letter - the 17 June letter addressed to GOS contractors remains the principle source of action to take locally.  

 

10. Education Strategic Review - GOC responds to ABDO 

This week ABDO raised concerns about the GOC's Education Strategic Review (ESR), highlighting how it felt the GOC's proposals would risk lowering standards and result in inconsistencies in training and education. 

The GOC has responded to ABDO's statement refuting the claims and reconfirming its commitment to work with ABDO in the "co-commissioning of research vital to ensure our proposals to update our Quality Assurance Handbooks strengthen the capacity of future dispensing opticians to provide safe and effective care". 

The GOC also recognises that both the College of Optometrists and ABDO remain the most popular routes to GOC registration, but points out that it "has never been the case that each hold a monopoly position" and that as a statutory regulator the GOC has always been able to consider any applications to become a provider of a DO or optometry qualification as to not do so would be "unlawful". The GOC has also addressed other concerns raised in the ABDO statement and invited people to take part in the formal consultation on the ESR

Read ABDO's statement
Read the GOC's response.  

 

11. Other sector news 

The BCLA has released its first ever podcast in which Chief Executive Luke Stevens-Burt shares findings of a BCLA survey which shows 73% of respondents felt positive about returning to practice. The next President of the BCLA, Indie Grewal, is also set to give his Presidential Address on Thursday, 10 September, and the event will be held 'virtually' for the first time. 

BIOS has cautiously welcomed the publication of NHS England's People Plan on behalf of orthoptists working in England. BIOS said that the plan provided an opportunity for its members to play a bigger role in ophthalmology transformation but that more needed to be done to fully recognise the role that allied health professionals play in the NHS.    

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