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29 April 2022

FODO member update - 29 April

This week:

Covid guidance updates

College announces a move from Amber to 'Living with Covid' Green Phase
The College of Optometrists has confirmed it expects to move to its 'Green' phase in early May. It is hoped this will happen on the 10 May, but the exact date is subject to change. We will update members when the College provides more detail but in the meantime:

  • The College has advised practices should now prepare to switch from its Amber guidance to  following its updated Guidance for Professional Practice (GfPP).
  • The GfPP now sets out IPC measures for what the College describes as, the 'new normal.' Members should access the infection control section here.
  • B28 for example sets out how standard precautions - good hand hygiene etc. - will remain in place. B38 explains when PPE should be used. B39 clarifies situations in which team members should use a Type IIR mask.  B39c explains that PPE measures should also follow official public health guidance. These of course may well vary by country and location in the future- e.g. during periods of high Covid transmission or flu season etc.

We advise members to review the updated GfPP. If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].

NHS England steps down physical distancing
NHS England has confirmed that primary care practices can return to "pre-pandemic physical distancing" subject to local risk assessment. 
The College of Optometrists has said this also applies to eye care settings in England, and that optical practices are "no longer required to maintain a minimum of 1m distance". However, practices will need to keep other IPC measures in place. 
The College has updated its Covid-19 Amber phase guidance to reflect the changes to physical distancing recommendations across the UK pending its move to 'green' phase next month.
In a practical sense, this means that optical practices in England can remove physical distancing measures based on local risk assessments - e.g. they are not seeing patients with Covid symptoms.
Scotland Covid measures
The latest changes in Covid-19 measures came into effect in Scotland on Monday, 18 April 2022, and are set out on the Scottish Government (SG) website

SG has clarified that at this stage there has been no change in the PPE requirements for healthcare staff. Primary eye care providers should continue to follow the Winter (21/22) Respiratory Infections in Health and Care Settings IPC Addendum Guidance.
It strongly recommends that patients and visitors continue to wear a face-covering but this is no longer a legal requirement. Other IPC measures, such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and ventilation, may be sufficient depending on the type of patients and care pathway. Practices and providers should encourage patients and visitors to continue to wear a face-covering (unless exempt). The Scottish government has provided resources to assist in promoting this message 

New resources on falls and vision impairment

The National Falls Prevention Coordination Group has developed new resources to help reduce the incidence of falls related to vision-impairment in older people. The group, which National Healthcare Public Health and NHS England host, aims to promote the importance of good eye health and vision in falls prevention amongst healthcare professionals. It also wants to raise the public's uptake of eye examinations.

The resources include a video supporting the Royal College of Physicians Bedside Vision tool, a poster and letter for healthcare professionals, and a College of Optometrists report on the importance of vision in preventing falls

Deadline for national data opt-out implementation extended (England)

The mandatory implementation date for the National Data Opt-Out (NDOO) has been extended to 31 July 2022.  

The NHS Operational Policy Guidance sets out when the NDOO must be applied. In summary, it applies unless there is a mandatory legal requirement or an overriding public interest for the data to be shared. It does not apply when the individual has consented to the sharing of their data or where the data is anonymised in line with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) Code of Practice on Anonymisation. 

Health and Care Act 2022 (England)

The Health and Care Bill has now received Royal Assent, making it the Health and Care Act 2022. Although many changes in the Act are already under way, the new law confirms:

  • NHS England will be the national body overseeing the NHS, with Monitor (NHS Improvement) dissolved and having no role
  • Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will formally be replaced with Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) over the coming year
  • Existing procurement regulations will be replaced with a new Provider Selection Regime (PSR).

For primary eye care:

  • There is no change to GOS. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England have already confirmed that GOS will remain a national demand-led service under a nationally agreed GOS contract and nationally negotiated fees and grants, with no local variation
  • ICBs will be responsible for commissioning enhanced eye care services at a local level in line with new PSR. This should bring opportunities to commission extended eye care services at scale as ICBs cover populations of 1 million people or more.

FODO will continue to work with sector partners and DHSC and NHSE to ensure primary eye care providers have voice and influence in England's newly configured NHS.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: "The Health and Care Act is the most significant change to the healthcare system in a decade". He hoped "the Act would help and will put [the NHS and care systems] in the strongest possible position to rebuild from the pandemic".
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said the Act would help "accelerate the changes set out in the NHS Long Term Plan that are already giving people a greater choice, better support and more joined-up care when they need it". 

Optometry Scotland opens vote for Independent representatives

Following our 1 April update, eligible practices can now vote for up to four people to join Optometry Scotland Council as independent reps. You will be asked to review six personal statements from candidates before casting your vote. Voting closes at 7pm on 11 May. Eligible members can vote here

Opportunity - NHS England senior programme lead

NHS England is looking for a senior programme lead to work in its Primary Care Optometry team. The fixed-term post is for 12 months, with a salary of £65k to £75k a year. Read more

Healthy ageing guide for health and care professionals

The Office for Health Improvement & Disparities has published a guide to help all health and care professionals prevent ill health and promote wellbeing as part of everyday practice.
The guide says that as part of making every contact count, all professionals should be aware of and act on "age-related visual impairment and hearing impairment, which has been identified as a risk factor for dementia". It recommends that people are signposted to relevant services and support.
Read the healthy ageing guide

NHS England - Eye care recovery and transformation

Mel Hingorani, ophthalmologist and joint clinical lead of NHS England's National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme, has written a blog about the state of eye care.
The blog explains that as of January this year, 600,000 patients were on waiting lists for ophthalmology and many patients "continue to undergo worsening quality of life and the profound trauma of sight loss as a result of avoidable delays, with a knock-on financial burden for the wider health and social care system".
To help address capacity issues, she calls for a care pathway to include "optometrists acting as the first point of contact and managing low-risk patients in the community". She added that IT connectivity is a key part of transforming and integrating eye care. Read the full blog. 

RNIB challenges streaming services

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has launched a campaign to improve the accessibility of video on demand (VOD) services, saying "enough is enough". The RNIB added that "blind and partially sighted people are tired of waiting" and "now is the time for Government to stick to their word" about improving access to VOD.
The charity says most VOD services remain inaccessible to 350,000 blind and partially sighted people living in the UK, as they often do not offer audio description. It says the government has failed to act for too long. Learn more about the RNIB's petition

Opening hours bank holiday

The FODO office will be closed on Monday 2 May and will reopen at 9am on Tuesday 3 May. Members can still access out-of-hours support on Monday by emailing [email protected]

Other sector news

After 10 years of campaigning fluorescein strips finally receive dual classification in Europe meaning they can continue to be manufactured as medical devices and used in primary eye care practice for example in contact lens fitting. Read more.
In response to a Parliamentary Question, Health Minister Edward Argar confirmed that in 2021/2022, the average waiting time for a cataract operation was 199 days in England.
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists sets out its research priorities and invites all stakeholders to get involved. Learn more
UK optical bodies, including FODO, have co-signed a letter to thank all student optometrists and student dispensing opticians for their commitment to their studies, patient care, and patient safety during the pandemic. Read more.
NICE is recruiting committee members to its diabetic retinopathy guideline committee. Learn more.

The Government looks to reform the NHS negligence system to reduce costs and complexity and change the culture of blaming individuals. 

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