GOC response on re-opening optical practices statement

‘We decided to publish our statement on re-opening optical practices because of the Government’s announcement to re-open non-essential shops in some parts of the UK due to the peak of the pandemic having passed. We thought it would be helpful to clarify our position with regard to whether optical practices had been allowed to remain open to set out the difference between healthcare services provided by registrants and non-essential shops, particularly given the recent announcements about the re-opening of dental practices.

Many practices remained open to provide urgent or emergency and essential care by prior appointment only. The vast majority chose to restrict practice to urgent or emergency and essential care only in line with NHS guidance and guidance from the optical professional bodies to ensure patient safety and protect staff at the height of the pandemic, supporting the public health endeavour of reducing unnecessary interaction. Although NHS guidance is contractually binding for NHS funded services, the broader sector guidance applies equally to NHS and privately delivered care.

In our view this means that registrants are able to deliver private eye care including private sight tests / eye examinations and aftercare appointments. However, in doing so registrants should follow the guidance from their professional bodies.

Current guidance from the College of Optometrists is that during this ‘amber’ phase of the pandemic this should be needs and symptoms led. Prior to the amber phase, the professional bodies had recommended that practices follow the NHS model and only see patients requiring urgent, essential or emergency care.

We have published a series of statements during the COVID-19 emergency which all still apply at this time, particularly as professional judgement will be required to reduce risk to patients and some care will still be delivered remotely where patients do not need to attend practice. The College of Optometrists guidance, as referenced above, provides advice, and recommends remote triage. We are regularly reviewing our statements and are always happy to receive feedback.

With this in mind, we are reviewing our latest statement on the re-opening of optical practices. We appreciate that it has caused confusion and concerns and we wish to further clarify our position.’

For further information on the re-opening of optical practices, visit the GOC’s dedicated COVID-19 page and frequently asked questions (FAQs) on our website.