24 July 2020

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.

One of the College's Clinical Advisers has issued the following statement:

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 and the guidance for optometrists. 

The regulations state that premises in England providing wholly or mainly medical services, including dentistry, optometry and audiology, are exempt, and as such, there is no mandate on the use of face coverings. Although this means it won’t be possible to legally enforce the wearing of face coverings, we recommend practices encourage their patients to wear face coverings unless the patient has an acceptable reason resulting in an exemption. Optometrists can request that a patient removes their face covering for any part of the examination where it affects the ability of a practitioner to perform the sight test or consultation. We know many members want patients to wear a face covering, and it is acceptable to request that, however, the exclusion of optometry from the regulations may make enforcing the policy difficult.

As regulations are subject to change at short notice, we urge you to stay up-to-date with trusted sources. In the meantime, we will continue to work with stakeholders to seek further clarity and consistency in how the public should use face coverings. 

 
Best wishes,
Daniel
 
Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom
Clinical Adviser

This article was correct at time of publication. 

Related further reading

The Opticians Act 1989 underpins the General Optical Council’s regulatory work. Sophie Goodchild looks at why a review was needed, the response from stakeholders, and the next steps.

A glance at what’s happening in the world of technology - Autumn 2022.

Clinical Adviser for the College Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom on how to ensure a sustainable optometry workforce.