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 and have or plan to apply

    200 39%
  • 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

    65 12%
  • I do not fit within the criteria as my annual trading profits are above £50,000

    92 18%
  • I do not fit within the criteria as I am newly self-employed (becoming self-employed within the past year)

    61 11%
  • I do not fit within the criteria for another reason

    90 17%

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Comments (13)

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  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    I had a set 3 days in practice but received a call from the owner, information me, that my services wouldn't be required, solely don't to the lack of work post pandemic. I'm sitting with a degree, Prof Certs in Medical Retina, Glaucoma + Independent Prescribing. The chances of using this skills in the near future is zero. The future is looking extremely oppressive for Optometrist in general. May have to consider a different career path. Recently read that a pilot had become a delivery driver for Tesco!. ... Needs must etc...

    Report 4

  • Lyn2 weeks ago

    Why not combine locum work with a small part time practice
    Having had an enforced period of retirement I find a reluctance to rejoin the fray
    There must be others out there in my situation

    Report 3

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    Yes locums took a big hit, I decided to start in February to have more flexibility to travel, then this happens. Bye bye savings. Im sure some residents will be affected as well I can only imagine 1-2 optometrists working per store when restrictions come down, it's a mess. Good luck to all of you out there.

    Report 8

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    Love all the lefties having a pop at the government. Can you imaging Labour sorting this out; Diane Abbot doing the sums!!
    Locums, when you do go back to work for your beloved multiples, it isn’t just the public who will be treated shamefully with tacky offers, you will be treated shamefully with vastly reduced daily rates offers. So here’s a radical idea: rent one of those empty shop units in your LOCAL High Street, set up your own Practice and do what you do best: practice real Optometry rather than flogging everyone glasses they don’t need. You’ll earn more than you did as a locum, get job satisfaction, and have a business to sell for retirement. Boom.

    Report 9

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    I’m a Locum- Correction, I was a part-time Locum with no compo from HMRC. I cannot envisage a safe return to practice for at least 6 months, and the retail landscape along with the optical business model will have changed forever.
    Time to re-train.
    I’m thinking of becoming an airline pilot, or maybe running a pub. Any ideas anyone?

    Report 5

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    Limited Company peep is lucky to be able to furlough them self. Because I am paid annually rather than through PAYE, I can't even do that. Zilch.
    I am surprised that more isn't being made about the difference between England and the rest of the UK, where the NHS is run by people who care about people.

    Report 4

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    The self employed help scheme ends at the end of May, yet furlough has been extended until October. I have had ALL my locum days this year cancelled. New petition on change.org to try and get HMRC to think about why they are again discrimating against locums. Please sign! http://chng.it/VvqBpdKT

    Report 5

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    I've been a locum since 2018, had moved to a new house, new location so work was not plentiful that first year, the year the government is using to base calculation for support. Year ended just this April I had worked and tripled my profits, triple not a lot but still. So the support has resulted in an 83% reduction in my income. I absolutely agree with the lock down but there will be many like me.

    Report 4

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    Am I the only one to thing NHS England have been their usual inefficient self during this. They source PPE. not the government. As usual optometry is the poor relation of the NHS, I haven’t seen one report on the news regarding optometry.

    Report 10

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    As a locum working via a limited company, the only help I get is to furlough myself on the low wage I was paying myself. Most of my income was through dividends. This is causing a catastrophic drop in income for me, and I'll end up spending what savings I had just to keep afloat. Fabulous.
    You may think so what! You only pay corporation tax at 20%, but remember we have no pension or holiday pay.
    Anyone else in this sorry situation ?

    Report 32

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    The conservatives have been in power since 2010... so yes it’s been nine years.

    Report 8

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    But the current government hasn't been in power for nine years?

    Report 5

  • Anonymous2 weeks ago

    We've had a catalogue of errors from the Govt since day one, covered up by nine years of planned NHS austerity cuts, manipulated statistics,ignoring Cygnus report, PPE shortages, slow reaction at the start, fudged testing numbers, unprepared care system, not following WHO isolation advice. The list is endless!

    Report 20

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