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23 October 2020

FODO's Friday roundup of sector news - 23 October

This week's news

  1. Covid-19 - latest
  2. Covid-19 - financial support
  3. Government reminds business to prepare for leaving the EU
  4. Britain is losing its focus says College
  5. Royal College of Ophthalmologists - Eye Care Road Map to Recovery
  6. Get involved in research on Digital Eye Strain (DES)
  7. Consultations update
  8. Other sector news

1. Covid-19 - latest

As per our updates earlier in the week, the Welsh government has confirmed that during the two-week lockdown starting today at 6pm: 

  • Patients can leave their homes to access local eye care services
  • All practices can remain open to provide services and should continue to follow amber recovery phase guidance. 

Read the letter in English/Welsh 

Scotland has announced that it will introduce a five-tier alert system (two more than in England) which will come into effect on 2 November. We are still awaiting the detail of this new system but, at this stage, like in the rest of the UK, we expect eye care services to be able to continue meeting patient needs in a Covid-secure way throughout the pandemic. 

FODO members with practices in the Republic of Ireland will be aware that following a confusing update on the essential retail list earlier in the week, FODO Ireland quickly analysed the regulations and confirmed that opticians could continue to meet eye health needs. The Department of Health has since confirmed that optometrists and opticians have been removed from emergency basis sub heading and are listed in the Schedule Part 1 under essential retail outlets. 

We will keep members up to date with further changes as the pandemic progresses. 

At this stage, we would like to remind all members of the importance of regular refresher training on infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, and in particular standard precautions. You can use our standards precautions poster and training and compliance guide to support this. 

If you need any help and support, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or by phone on 020 7298 5151.           


2. Covid-19 - financial support

We last updated members on the new UK-wide financial support package for businesses in our 9 October update. The Chancellor announced yesterday that the government will now increase financial support for businesses and workers. 

The key points are: 

Job Support Scheme (JSS) 

The UK wide JSS will come into effect on 1 November and run for six months. There is a different level of support for businesses which are open but experiencing a downturn because of Covid-19 and companies which are legally required to close because of local restrictions. Given that opticians are not expected to be part of local lockdown restrictions, the key points are: 

  • JSS will now be open to all businesses that are experiencing considerable difficulty due to Covid-19 - e.g. where staff are working reduced hours due to reduced demand 
  • The initial intention was for employers to pay a third of their employees' wages for hours not worked, which required employers to be working 33% of their normal hours. The JSS will now require employees to work a minimum of 20% of their regular hours and employer contributions for unworked hours will be reduced to 5%. 
  • HMRC is due to publish more detailed guidance by the end of next week and we will share this with members as soon as possible. 

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) 

The UK-wide SEISS will be extended and will offer larger grants. The key points are: 

  • There will be two additional SEISS grant payments for those who are eligible, one covering November to January and a second covering the period February to April 
  • The profits covered by grants will increase from 20 per cent to 40 per cent. This will increase the maximum grant from £1,875 to £3,750 
  • HMRC is expected to provide more detail about claiming the grant in mid-November. We will keep you up to date with developments. 

Expanding access to business grants 

The Covid-19 business grant scheme for England will now also be open to businesses significantly affected by local restrictions, even if the company itself is not forced to close. This support, however, is targeted at hard-hit sectors such as hospitality, and it is unlikely that opticians will be eligible at this stage. For more information, see the Business Grants Factsheet

Read more about the package of support


3. Government reminds business to prepare for leaving the EU

The UK government has said time is running out for businesses to prepare for the UK leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union. The government's 'Time is running out' campaign is now "urging business leaders to step up preparations for Australia-style arrangements from 1 January". HMRC has also written to 200,000 traders who trade with the EU to set out the new customs and tax rules coming into place and how to deal with them. Read more.    


4. Britain is losing its focus says College

The College of Optometrists Focus on Life campaign was launched this week by the release of a short film from the Ridley Scott Creative Group. The College commissioned the film, which has now been viewed more than 2,000 times, as part of a public awareness campaign. Its research revealed that 66% of the population admit to having difficulty with blurred vision, and 35% report that their vision has deteriorated markedly in the past two years. 

College research has also shown: 

  • 38% of the UK population feel their life would be more fulfilling if they could see better 
  • 39% admit they should get their sight tested more often than they do 
  • 23% of parents reported never taking their children to get their eyesight tested 

Which prompted the College to say, "Britain really is losing its focus". Learn more about the Focus on Life campaign and survey results. 


5. Royal College of Ophthalmologists - Eye Care Road Map to Recovery

The RCOphth says that there "are long-standing serious capacity issues in hospital ophthalmology services causing safety concerns through delays to follow up care". It says these have "been significantly worsened" owing to routine secondary eye care being suspended during phase one of the pandemic response. The RCOphth will host a webinar on 26 October, 6pm to 7.15pm, to share its views on how the NHS England and Improvement Eye Care Road Map to Recovery will help meet patient needs. Learn more and register for the webinar.  


6. Get involved in research on Digital Eye Strain (DES)

Optometrists registered with the GOC in the UK or CORU in the Republic of Ireland are invited to take part in an Aston University-led survey of their views on Digital Eye Strain (DES), and their approaches to its diagnosis and management. Learn more and get involved.   


7. Consultations update

Thank you to all members who offered their time and views on the Education and training requirements for GOC-approved qualifications consultation. We submitted our response this week, which you can read in full here. We look forward to working with the GOC and sector partners to help ensure that students have access to a robust and innovative learning experience and on qualifying will be confident and well placed to meet the nation's growing and changing eye health and treatment needs.

We are now finalising our response to the GOC consultation on the acceptance policy for business registrants, which will provide greater clarity and guidance on when the GOC will open an investigation against a business registrant. 

The policy team is currently analysing the NHS 2021/22 tariff engagement consultation. This survey seeks feedback on the potential policies for the 2021/22 national tariff and related financial architecture. This consultation will influence what proposals are included in the statutory consultation on the next tariff. Past national tariff consultations have had an impact on how ophthalmology services are funded in England, for example, tariffs paid for follow-up glaucoma care. If you have any questions or would like to share your views on NHS proposals with FODO, please email  [email protected]


8. Other sector news

September ONS data for retail sales suggests the sector recovered to slightly above February's pre-pandemic levels. Opticians, included within a smaller subcategory of 'other non-food stores', for example, were able to meet pent-up demand for eye tests and appliances when lockdown measures eased. 

This week, the HSJ reported on the private hospitals in England with the largest Covid-19 contracts totalling £1.6bn, including a £2.4 contract for eye health provider Optegra. 

Moorfields Eye Hospital has created a new app to help treat eye care emergencies across all of its sites and also made it available for free as a worldwide resource. Learn more

LOCSU has expanded its regional workshops programme, bringing LOCs across seven large footprints which map to NHS England and Improvement regions in England. The forums aim to focus on sharing information and networking across LOCs. Read more

The Association of Optometrists is running a campaign to remind drivers to take extra care when clocks go back on Sunday.  

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