Managing patients attending optometry practices with symptoms of respiratory infection

People with symptoms of respiratory infection should postpone their eye care unless it is urgent or an emergency. This is to reduce the risk of transmission of Health Care Associated Infections in practice according to your practices National guidance.

An example screening question is below:

Do you have any of the following symptoms?
  • High temperature or fever
  • New, continuous cough
  • A loss or alteration to taste or smell
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

Where people have a single symptom of respiratory infection, other than a high temperature or fever, you should use your professional judgment to ensure you act in your patients’ best interests, and not unnecessarily defer appointments or refer to other pathways. If a person is affected by chronic respiratory condition such as COPD, asthma, or allergies, you should deliver face to face care as normal in line with your practice’s standard infection control precautions (SICPs). They should be advised to inform the practice if they develop any new respiratory symptoms prior to the appointment.

Where people have a fever or two or more recent onset (acute) symptoms of respiratory infection, you should offer remote consultation if clinically appropriate or deferral of routine eye care until they are well.

If these patients require face to face eye care, which cannot be postponed you should apply the relevant transmission based precautions (TBPs). If this is not possible, they should be referred to an appropriate local service or you should contact your local hospital eye service for advice.

Transmission based precautions (TBPs)

TBPs are additional precautions when providing care to a patient with suspect or confirmed infection; as SICPs alone are insufficient in these cases to prevent transmission. Where a patient exhibits a fever or two or more recent onset (acute) symptoms of respiratory infection and requires face to face eye care, you should follow the droplet and airborne TBPs according to your Nations infection prevention and control guidance in the following areas:

  • Attending the practice
  • Placement in the practice
  • In the consulting room
  • Cleaning the practice.

National guidance on TBPs: Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

All members of the practice team should be familiar with both SICPs and TBPs, with appropriate responsibility assigned to ensure implementation and safe environment for staff and their patients. 


Published April 2022