29 October 2021

College supports proposal to extend provision of free PPE to optometrists

The College responded to a DSHC consultation to support the extension of provision of free PPE to the health and care sector, including optometrists, after 31 March.

Summary

The College responded to a DSHC consultation to support the extension of provision of free PPE to the health and care sector, including optometrists, after 31 March. Optometrists continue to maintain infection prevention and control procedures, including wearing of appropriate PPE, to keep patients and practice staff safe. These standard precautions will form the basis of a new normal way of delivering eye care in the long-term and we will continue to ensure optometrists and practice staff receive the support and protection they deserve for as long as needed.

Our response

To what extent do you agree that free PPE should be extended beyond 31 March 2022 for 12 months?

Strongly agree.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously affected the provision of eye care in primary and secondary settings and will continue to affect the way eye care services are provided to patients for some time to come.

Health and care staff have shown enormous dedication to patient care over the past 19-months, including optometrists who did everything they could to minimise the risk of visual loss by maintaining essential eye care services. Today they are also working hard to address the backlog that has worsened during the pandemic putting a large number of patients at high risk of vision loss that, in normal circumstances, should have been preventable.

As the COVID-19 restrictions evolve, it is important to continue to ensure health and care staff receive the support and protection they deserve for as long as needed. 

The College of Optometrists strongly agrees that free PPE should be extended beyond 31 March 2022 for 12 months.

We cannot accept knowingly allowing patients and staff to become infected by the virus and becoming ill in a setting that is meant to look after peoples’ health. Patients have the right to be treated in a safe and secure environment and we would be failing in our duty to patients by putting them at risk of avoidable harm.

As our understanding of COVID-19 evolves, keeping sensible, practical measures for our dedicated health and care staff and the public means we can keep looking after patients and each other. 

Optometrists and other practice staff continue to maintain comprehensive infection prevention and control procedures, including wearing of face coverings and appropriate PPE, to keep patients and practice staff safe. The standard infection control precautions will form the basis for the transition to a new normal way of delivering eye care safely and effectively in the long-term. The same high volumes of PPE will still be needed beyond 31 March 2022. Our responsibility is to continue to ensure that all health and care staff receive the support and protection they deserve now and beyond March 2022 by supplying them with appropriate levels of PPE.

Are there other options you think we should consider?

No.

 

Submitted: October 2021

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.