Timing is everything in the return to routine practice

The Government has provided an update on its financial support schemes as it lays out plans for returning to work

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Getty/Suppachok Nuthep

This week has brought a new phase in the country’s lockdown, as the Government shared its strategies to gradually ease the lockdown and return various industries to work.

The outcome of last week’s blog poll, which over 900 of you participated in, made it clear that the majority of respondents felt it was too soon to change the policy requiring all non-essential workers to stay at home.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that those who cannot work from home should be “encouraged” to return to work, the immediate outlook for optometrists appears unchanged as routine sight tests remain suspended.

For many optometrists we have spoken to in the past few weeks, a return to ‘normal’ feels very far away. Continued social distancing post-lockdown means many are considering how to adapt their practices to be safe for both patients and staff, while the uncertainty of how long the vulnerable population will be “shielding” is a concern for domiciliary optometry.

In the meantime, an update to the financial support measures laid out by the Government for businesses and the self-employed may have brought some welcome relief.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, confirmed a further extension of the furlough scheme into the autumn and the introduction of greater flexibility that will allow employers to bring furloughed staff back part-time beyond August.

Meanwhile, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) opened ahead of schedule on Wednesday this week, with the Chancellor revealing that 110,000 claims had already been received by noon the same day.

However, gaps in support remain for those who don’t fit the eligibility criteria, and as we all consider how long restrictions will continue, and what the longer-term impacts could be for practice, this will no doubt be creating additional pressure for those falling through the gaps.

The team at OT will continue to report the latest news and guidance relating to coronavirus to help you keep up to date, and as our On the Ground interview series continues, please do continue to get in touch with your stories.

OT  asks… If you are a locum optometrist, are you eligible for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme?
  • I fit within the criteria but have not applied

    2 0%
  • I do not fit within the criteria as my self-employed work does not represent half my income

    67 12%
  • I fit within the criteria and have or plan to apply

    201 38%
  • I do not fit within the criteria for another reason

    91 17%
  • I do not fit within the criteria as my annual trading profits are above £50,000

    94 18%
  • I do not fit within the criteria as I am newly self-employed (becoming self-employed within the past year)

    61 11%