Now that most optometrists, dispensing opticians and practice staff have received their COVID vaccination across all of the UK, we have made an important step forward in protecting practice staff and our patients from the effects of COVID, a remarkable achievement, both in the safe and rapid development of a number of vaccines, and in the NHS successfully delivering the vaccination at an unprecedented rate. However, we are now at a point where infection control complacency poses its greatest risk. Both the Association of British Dispensing Opticians and The College of Optometrists urge all employers to support their clinicians and their teams to maintain the high standards of infection control procedures that practices have adopted throughout the pandemic keeping practices safe and ensure social distancing is maintained and sufficient time is provided for IPC.
As lockdown restrictions are in the process of being eased across the UK, there still are no plans to step down infection prevention and control procedures (IPC) or social distancing for primary or secondary healthcare settings in the coming months. The College of Optometrists and the Association of British Dispensing Opticians are working with public health officials and will keep the profession updated on any changes.
Practices should continue to:
- Maintain social distancing.
- Ensure all staff wear a face mask (FRFM) and follow the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Ensure scrupulous hand washing.
- Ensure good surface disinfection after every patient episode.
- Encourage all staff to regularly use Lateral flow tests and report the results.
- Maintaining patient screening for COVID symptoms.
Therefore, despite the success of the vaccination program, it is vital we continue to ensure practices remain safe spaces and this is only possible by continued IPC, wearing the appropriate PPE and maintaining social distancing. We are a step closer to the end of the pandemic, but, according to public health officials, it is likely there will be further infection waves in the year ahead, and the best way to prepare is to avoid any complacency and champion best practice to ensure a continued safe working environment and in turn a safe place for patients to access their eyecare.