Coronavirus (COVID-19): when to provide a sight test

Advice to members about providing sight tests during the coronavirus outbreak

Sight test

Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we have demanded clarity from NHS England about the delivery of routine sight tests, and called on the need to prioritise the safety of practice staff and patients. We know that in Wales and Scotland routine work has stopped and GOS is only being provided where essential. We and others are now advising that practices should stop routine work in England as a matter of clinical judgement. However, NHS England is the only body that can make a binding decision for practices in England on this fundamental issue.

Until we have that guidance, AOP members should use their clinical judgement to decide when it is in the patient’s best interests to provide a sight test – taking into account the risks to you and the patient of providing a sight test in current circumstances. We know that many of you have already taken the very difficult decision to limit the practice during the outbreak.

Do not see a patient:

  • If a patient is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or has been on contact with someone who has it
  • If the test is routine and could be postponed

Do see a patient:

  • If there are strong clinical or other reasons to provide a sight test urgently, but you must do everything you can to mitigate the health risks of doing so

For MECS patients:

  • Operate a telephone or video triage and only see those patients with a high risk of sight loss

Examples of where a patient may genuinely need an urgent sight test for non-clinical reasons include supporting key workers who are struggling to perform their jobs effectively because of difficulties with their vision.

We are urgently developing further clinical advice on how to mitigate the health risks of providing a sight test in these circumstances. For instance, we suggest that you refuse to see walk-in patients and only open the practice for prearranged urgent sight tests.