Open with safety in mind

Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, has welcomed today’s letter from NHS England confirming that with immediate effect opticians can resume routine GOS services as long as they have the necessary infection prevention and control and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements in place.

He says, ‘This is good news for the sector as a whole and of course for patients. My thanks go to all the optical bodies who have worked so hard to get us to this point.

‘Like many others in the sector, we have remained open during lockdown to provide essential and urgent care. But being unable to perform routine eye tests has meant that people could be living with serious eye health conditions which could have been identified if we had been able to see them.

‘Our own data on hospital referrals shows thatin England, compared with the same10-week period last year, we have referred 80,000 fewer patients to a specialist or for further care. Ofmost concern clinically are thosewhose symptomswouldnot yetbenoticeable,such as those with early glaucoma, early diabetic maculopathy or early age-related macular degeneration.

‘We have worked hard to prepare for the return to routine care with a complete redesign of our customer journey to ensure the safety of our customers and colleagues at all times.

‘This includes restrictions on the number of customers allowed in store and strict social distancing rules. In line with NHS guidance, colleagues will use PPE and all testing equipment and frames will be thoroughly sanitised after each use.

‘Our consulting rooms have a strict one-patient policy, except where a child or vulnerable adult requires a guardian or companion. We’re setting appointment times at a minimum of 30 minutes to allow for a needs and safety based approach.

‘This allows the optometrist to review the patient’s history, symptoms, lifestyle details and diagnostic results before inviting them in and allows time for equipment to be fully sanitised between each patient as well as for the requisite PPE to be donned and doffed.

‘We have also introduced a new front of store role to reassure customers who may feel apprehensive about visiting the optician after lockdown. The Customer Care Guide will greet customers on arrival and assist them through the new process, providing reassurance and answering any questions.’

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