COVID-19: Daily update archive

Since our first update on 20 March 2020, right at the start of lockdown, we’ve been providing timely, relevant news, information and guidance that you can trust.

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10 September 2020: Daily update

  • Scheme for Registration update: Stage Two assessments for pre-registration trainees can begin from Friday 11 September. If you have completed all of your Stage One assessments, and have been signed off in all 75 competences, you will now be able to begin Stage Two. Find out more.

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19 August 2020: Daily update

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12 August 2020: Daily update

  • Ophthalmology and Optometry: The College and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists launch joint vision for eye care during and beyond the pandemic.

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7 August 2020: Daily Update

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6 August 2020: Daily update

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30 July 2020: Daily update

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28 July 2020: Daily update

  • Join us for a coffee break tomorrow (10.30-11.30am)! Our informal online sessions are aimed at helping our members stay connected and discuss their experiences during this unique time. You will join a large group for an introduction and then participate in a smaller group discussion (up to 6 members) for up to an hour. Book your place.
     
  • Reiss Jhamat: Life in lockdown. Optometrist, Reiss Jhamat MCOptom, recounts his experience working during the pandemic, and the introduction of the local Leicester lockdown.

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24 July 2020: Daily update

  • Update on face coverings in England: Since the Secretary of State's announcement regarding the wearing of face coverings in shops in England, we have been seeking further detail on how this impacts optical practices.

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22 July 2020: Daily update

  • Johnathan Waugh: Life in Lockdown: Johnathan Waugh MCOptom reflects on his time working in a COVID-19 Assessment Centre at the beginning of the pandemic in part one of his diaries.
     
  • Join us for a coffee break! Our informal online sessions are aimed at helping our members stay connected and discuss their experiences during this unique time. You will join a large group for an introduction and then participate in a smaller group discussion (up to 6 members) for up to an hour. Book your place.

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21 July 2020: Daily update

  • Scheme for Registration: We have received notice from the GOC that remote Stage One assessments for pre-registration trainees can begin from Monday 27 July 2020. This only applies to trainees on Stage One of the Scheme, who had already completed at least two visits before lockdown. Find out more.

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15 July 2020: Daily update

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10 July 2020: Daily update

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9 July 2020: Daily update

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6 July 2020: Daily update

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3 July 2020: Daily update

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2 July 2020: Daily update

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30 June 2020: Daily update

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29 June 2020: Daily update

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26 June 2020: Daily update

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25 June 2020: Daily update

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24 June 2020: Daily update

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23 June 2020: Daily update

  • The College ran a live Instagram Q&A session yesterday, answering all your amber phase guidance queries. Watch the video.

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15 June 2020: Daily update

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11 June 2020: Daily update

  • Yasmine Sahraie: Life in lockdown. Join optometrist, Yasmine Sahraie MCOptom, as she gives us an insight into the Emergency Eye Care Treatment team in Grampian, Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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10 June 2020: Daily update

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8 June 2020: Daily update

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4 June 2020: Daily update

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29 May 2020: Daily update

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28 May 2020: Daily update

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26 May 2020: Daily update

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21 May 2020: Daily update

  • Insiyah Bharmal: Life in lockdown. Insiyah Bharmal, Optometrist at Vision Express in Nottingham, takes you through her journey of returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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19 May 2020: Daily update

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14 May 2020: Daily update

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12 May 2020: Daily update

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11 May 2020: Daily update

  • Donya Gharanei: Life in lockdown. Join Donya Gharanei MCOptom, Optometrist at Specsavers Opticians in Acocks Green, as she discusses the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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7 May 2020: Daily update

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6 May 2020: Daily update

  • COVID-19: Update on testing for optometrists. We outline COVID-19 testing information for optometrists in all four UK nations.
     
  • PPE for optical practices in England: Following the College’s successful influencing to ensure optometry was included in national PPE guidance, LOCSU, together with Primary Eyecare Services (PES), has made PPE available for optical practices in England to purchase via a not-for-profit online shop. We understand that many PPE items have already sold out, but LOCSU is working on new supply chains and advises to check the shop daily for updates. If, when stocks are back, you still are unable to access PPE for any reason, let us know.

  • NHS England webinar: Implementing the COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES): This solutions-focused webinar, aimed at CCG primary care leads and featuring College President Colin Davidson FCOptom, will provide examples of how CCGs have implemented a CUES service or a similar in their local area and discuss how CCGs have overcome barriers to implementation. There will be the opportunity to ask questions in an extended Q&A. Sign up here.

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5 May 2020: Daily update

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1 May 2020: Daily update

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30 April 2020: Daily update

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29 April 2020: Daily update

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28 April 2020: Daily update

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27 April 2020: Daily update

  • Life in lockdown: Join Nicola and Oliver Gatehouse, owners of Ball & Gatehouse Opticians, as they update you on the challenges they have faced in their practice since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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22 April 2020: Daily updates

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17 April 2020: Daily update

 

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9 April 2020: Daily update

  • Updates on PPE made to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: Guidance for optometrists
  • Updated FAQs: 
    • What PPE should I wear?
    • Should reception staff wear PPE?
    • How do I put on and take off PPE correctly?
    • How should I dispose of my PPE?
    • Do I still have to wash my hands and use other infection control techniques if I wear PPE?
    • What is the College doing to help us get PPE?
    • I am unable to get PPE – what should I do?
    • How do I conduct a phone or video consultation with a patient?

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31 March 2020: Daily update

Acuity: COVID-19 – can chloroquine help tackle the pandemic? The antimalarial drug may be a glimmer of hope as coronavirus takes hold across the world, if the threat of retinopathy can be managed.

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30 March 2020: Daily update

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26 March 2020: Daily update

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26 March 2020: Scheme for Registration update

We want assure trainees, supervisors and employers that we are developing proposals to modify the Scheme for Registration requirements in these exceptional circumstances. While work has begun on these, it will take some time to develop full proposals and have them signed-off by the GOC. 

We are working to put in place arrangements that recognise that pre-registration trainees are unlikely to be employed in supervised practice for a period of time, and therefore not able to meet the standard Scheme requirements. We are also exploring what we can do differently, having had to suspend work-based assessment visits on the Scheme. 

We are exploring modifications we can make and how competencies can be assessed differently, all while upholding the rigour of the Scheme and ensuring patient safety. We are involving key stakeholders in this work, and will test our plans with different parties, including employers and the GOC. We recognise we need to build confidence in any potential modifications, so that they are both credible and practical.

We are developing a process for approving extensions to allotted time on the Scheme for trainees whose placements and progress are affected by COVID-19. This will aim to avoid individual trainees needing to apply separately for extensions (as is the case under standard Scheme regulations).

We are also exploring how we can work with employers to support trainees’ learning and development while their supervised practice is suspended. 

We will keep you updated with all Scheme for Registration developments. 

We want assure trainees, supervisors and employers that we are developing proposals to modify the Scheme for Registration requirements in these exceptional circumstances. While work has begun on these, it will take some time to develop full proposals and have them signed-off by the GOC. 

We are working to put in place arrangements that recognise that pre-registration trainees are unlikely to be employed in supervised practice for a period of time, and therefore not able to meet the standard Scheme requirements. We are also exploring what we can do differently, having had to suspend work-based assessment visits on the Scheme. 

We are exploring modifications we can make and how competencies can be assessed differently, all while upholding the rigour of the Scheme and ensuring patient safety. We are involving key stakeholders in this work, and will test our plans with different parties, including employers and the GOC. We recognise we need to build confidence in any potential modifications, so that they are both credible and practical.

We are developing a process for approving extensions to allotted time on the Scheme for trainees whose placements and progress are affected by COVID-19. This will aim to avoid individual trainees needing to apply separately for extensions (as is the case under standard Scheme regulations).

We are also exploring how we can work with employers to support trainees’ learning and development while their supervised practice is suspended. 

We will keep you updated with all Scheme for Registration developments. 

The latest guidance and information is available on our COVID-19 page and on our social media channels.

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26 March 2020: Independent prescribing (IP) examination update

We had to cancel delivery of the College’s IP exam, due to have been held on 1st April, to comply with Covid-19 requirements. We will keep under review when it will be possible to deliver the exam in its conventional format.

We are currently exploring how the exam could be conducted differently. We are looking into the feasibility of the College using software that enables candidates to sit exams securely online, with remote invigilation (our current exam system does not allow us to run the exam online). We will provide an update once we can indicate precisely what it is possible for us to do.

We also recognise that optometrists with IP rights can make a particularly valuable contribution to meeting patient care needs differently, including in the context of more eye care being delivered outside hospital settings where this is safe to do so. We are involved in discussions with the General Optical Council and other partners on how optometrists’ professional skills, including those relating to IP, can be optimised to meet patient care and service delivery needs in the current circumstances and how the profession’s skills and contribution can be promoted. We will provide an update on this shortly.

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23 March 2020: Recommendation to only offer ‘essential’ eye care

We have listened to our members’ concerns, and the public health advice coming from the UK's governments to avoid social contact where possible. As a result the College recommends that every optometrist and practice owner stops providing routine sight tests and routine eye examinations, and offers only essential services. Essential services would include sight tests based on a clinical need, and urgent eye care pathways. We note that some practices are doing this on a voluntary basis already.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. Practices now need to contribute to the public health endeavour of ensuring that people only go out when necessary. Routine sight tests can be safely delayed.
  2. It is essential we help to keep the nation‘s sight healthy - from NHS frontline staff to those in self-isolation. Our communities still need essential eye care, and secondary care may need our support to see urgent cases. We therefore need to ensure our members and all optical staff are able to protect themselves and maintain the safety of their communities.
  3. We understand the growing concern about the potential for tears to lead to COVID-19 infection and are waiting for more certain evidence on this.  In the meantime optometrists should not put themselves at unnecessary risk, and we are asking UK governments to provide appropriate PPE for optometrists who are providing essential services.

We note that the Welsh and Scottish governments have already issued advice on essential primary eye services and stopping routine sight tests. We are pressing NHS England and the HSCNI to do the same, and to provide financial support to enable practices to continue to be viable eye care centres. 

For the safety of the public and of our members, the College is calling on all key optical bodies to support us in urging NHS England and the HSCB (Health and Social Care Board) in Northern Ireland to tell optometrists to cease provision of all non-essential optometric procedures, including routine sight tests and eye examinations. Please note that, although we strongly support this course of action, the decision to enforce it lies with NHS England and the HSCB. In the meantime, we are asking our members to follow our strong recommendation that they cease to provide non-essential services.

We are also asking that NHS England and the HSCB provide clarification on what constitutes essential primary eye services to avoid further confusion and ensure consistency across the four nations.

I feel unsafe seeing patients without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

We are calling on UK governments to provide access to PPE and training on how to use it for optometrists wishing to provide essential eye care.

I am a pre-reg trainee – how will this affect me?

Although assessments have stopped, we know that we have previously advised that trainees can continue to see patients. With only essential services being provided, trainees can help with telephone triage to decide whether a patient should be seen. We are currently liaising with the GOC on changes that we can make to the Scheme for Registration requirements so that trainees are not unfairly held back in their progress.

What is essential?

Examples of essential optometric practice would include providing replacement spectacles for a key worker who has broken theirs, or seeing patients with acute eye- or sight-related symptoms. It would not include seeing patients who are attending practice for their routine sight test without eye- or sight-related symptoms.

We recommend that – before making any appointment – you operate a telephone triage service to determine whether or not a patient falls into the ‘essential’ category, and explain to other patients why you are postponing their appointment.

This will affect my business – how will I cope?

We understand that this is a difficult decision for practice owners to make, but we feel this is the right decision for optometrists, their staff and the wider public in helping slow the spread of the pandemic and ensuring that we are able to help with the backlog of patients that will ensue as a result. We are pressing NHS England and NHSCI to provide financial support to enable practices to continue to be viable eye care centres.

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20 March 2020: College daily update

It is essential that you continue to take personal responsibility for keeping yourself informed. You should only follow the relevant official guidance and do not act on, or share, any information that cannot be verified, or information that is not consistent with official advice. Clinical misinformation can have significant consequences and we all need to actively guard against it. If you have any queries, consult our FAQs in the first instance, or email our clinical advice service.

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18 March 2020: College daily update

Over the days and weeks to come, we will work with our members and stakeholders across the UK to identify what we can do to best serve the public as the situation develops.

We will share information and updates with you on a daily basis - follow us on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest guidance. It is also essential that you continue to take personal responsibility for keeping yourself informed. You should only follow the relevant official guidance and do not act on, or share, any information that cannot be verified, or information that is not consistent with official advice. Clinical misinformation can have significant consequences and we all need to actively guard against it.

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18 March 2020: Joint statement from the Optometry Schools Council (OSC) and College of Optometrists on supporting final-year students’ progression to the Scheme for Registration

The OSC and the College of Optometrists are working together to minimise the disruption caused by COVID-19 to optometry education provision and to enable optometry students to meet the requirements to enrol on the Scheme for Registration in 2020. 

We are developing plans, as a matter of urgency, to provide as smooth a transition as possible for graduating students, and for students on programmes that integrate university study and the Scheme. We are doing this in ways that uphold high education and professional standards and ensure adherence to GOC requirements.

We are working to put in place the following arrangements: 

  1. Students/new graduates with any deficits in their patient episode numbers and/or clinical competencies that cannot be addressed due to the current disruption to their undergraduate study created by COVID-19, will be supported by their university and the College to demonstrate fulfilment of these requirements during the early stages of their pre-registration placement.
     
  2. The College and universities will work with other stakeholders, including supervisors, employers and College assessors, to ensure that all parties, including patients and the public, can have confidence in the modified arrangements and feel supported in contributing to their implementation. 
     
  3. Students who have outstanding patient episode numbers and/or clinical competencies in 2020 will be eligible for the award of an Optometry degree, providing that their degree performance is at 2:2 standard or above.
     
  4. Universities will work with the College to explore how new graduates can appropriately be supported in their transition to the Scheme during this period of exceptional circumstance, recognising that there may be unavoidable gaps between individuals’ last contact with patients as undergraduate students and their enrolment on the Scheme. 

The OSC and the College will share more detailed plans to progress the above as these are developed. We will particularly consider the situation and needs of students enrolled on degree programmes into which the Scheme for Registration is integrated, and of students who enter the Scheme via other progression routes. 

The College is developing plans to support all trainees’ progression through the Scheme for Registration during the exceptional circumstances created by COVID-19. This approach is again to uphold high education and professional standards and to meet GOC requirements. These will be shared by the College in due course.

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17 March 2020: Message to candidates due to sit the TCFA in Independent Prescribing on 1 April 2020

In the same way as other organisations in these unprecedented times, the College continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation carefully. We understand that this is a difficult, worrying and fast-changing situation for everyone.

In the context of latest government advice regarding COVID-19, we have taken the decision to cancel the Therapeutics Common Final Assessment in Independent Prescribing sitting that was scheduled to take place on 1 April 2020

We have made this decision so that all candidates and College staff can follow government and organisational advice on self-isolation and social distancing and respond, as required, to any escalation in this advice. 

Please do not travel to the venue.

All candidates will be automatically transferred onto the next examination sitting, which is currently scheduled for June 2020. Alternatively, candidates may apply to cancel their place altogether, and may request a refund of their examination fee by emailing education.help@college-optometrists.org

We will be taking a decision in the next few weeks regarding future examination sittings and are actively exploring alternative assessment arrangements. We will be in touch again with all candidates as these decisions are made.

If you have any queries, please send them to education.help@college-optometrists.org and one of the team will be in touch.

 

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17 March 2020: Message to trainees, supervisors and assessors

In the same way as other organisations in these unprecedented times, the College continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation carefully. We understand that this is a difficult, worrying and fast-changing situation for everyone. We want to assure trainees, supervisors and assessors of the College’s continued support to all those enrolled on and involved with delivery of the Scheme for Registration.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 16 March 2020, we have decided to stop all assessment activity on the Scheme for Registration from 8am on Wednesday 18 March 2020. This means that all assessment visits, at both stage 1 and stage 2, will be cancelled until further notice. We will keep under review how long this suspension needs to be in place, obviously informed by government advice and requirements. 

We have not taken this decision lightly. It is to protect the safety of trainees, supervisors and assessors, as well as patients and the public.

We realise that there will be a number of consequences arising from the decision. We will be in touch again in the next 48 hours with further advice.

Trainees should be assured that the College will continue to support them during this challenging time. As part of our contingency plans, we are exploring how we can most smoothly enable trainees’ allotted time on the Scheme (normally up to 27 months) to be extended, where this need arises due to cancelled visits and wider disruption caused by COVID-19. We will be explaining these arrangements in our updates. 

If you have any urgent queries about assessment an visit that was due to take place in the next 72 hours, please send them to education.help@college-optometrists.org and one of team will be in touch. Otherwise, please wait for further updates.

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16 March 2020: Member alert

The College, alongside other optical bodies including the GOC and the Optical Confederation, is part of a regular weekly meeting with NHS England and Improvement to feed into and be updated on coronavirus/COVID-19 related issues relevant to primary care. We are also in contact with the optical advisors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure we can provide links to the latest national guidance.

The UK optical bodies maintain regular contact so that we can streamline communications and address common questions and concerns, and share these with the national optical leads. 

We know that the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee has put forward a number of contractual proposals to keep the optical sector supported and able to continue treating patients during this, and the next phases of the pandemic. Similar negotiations will be happening in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in respect of the arrangements there. We will share relevant updates on these when we receive them. 

In the coming weeks and months we will be working with other professional bodies across primary and secondary healthcare and eye care to identify ways that our professions can work together to best serve the public during this developing situation. 

In the meantime, please keep checking the national websites linked above each day for updates. We are committed to sharing the latest official information as the situation develops. It is essential that every optometrist continues to take personal responsibility for keeping themselves informed, and checking the national websites linked above each day for updates. Practitioners must only follow the relevant official guidance and ensure they do not act on, or share any information that cannot be verified, or information that is not consistent with the official advice. Clinical misinformation can have significant consequences, we all need to actively guard against it.

If you have questions about the current COVID-19 situation or wish to sense-check information you have seen, email our clinical advice service for support.

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28 February 2020: NHS England standard operating procedure

NHS England and NHS Improvement have issued a new coronavirus (COVID-19) standard operating procedure (SOP) for primary care optical settings in England.

It is intended to support primary care teams to implement the PHE guidance COVID-19: interim guidance for primary care by explaining the actions an optical practice should take in managing patients who they suspect may have COVID-19.

Please note that nhs.net will be NHS England’s preferred means for communicating key guidance and resources to practices. Practices that don’t have an nhs.net email address will need to register for one - details on how to do this are included in the SOP.

The key points in the document are:

  • the preparations each optical practice should make
  • how to register for a nhs.net account for you and your practice 
  • information practices should give to the public about the virus, including practice posters
  • what to do if you think a patient has COVID-19
  • how optical practices should perform isolation and decontamination.

Updated guidance

Standard operating procedure for primary care optical settings (England)

Health Protection Scotland has also issued updated advice for opticians and optometrists

Guidance for opticians and optometrists (Scotland)

In Wales and Northern Ireland stay up to date with the latest information and advice from your country’s health authority and ensure you take appropriate precautions if required. 

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