Clarifying the meaning of essential eye care

When is eye care essential? The OFNC has addressed this question in a statement that outlines circumstances where patients can receive care


What is the benchmark for essential eye care? Defining a clear approach to this question can be challenging, particularly against a backdrop of changing lockdown restrictions within the UK.

Speaking with OT for our upcoming print edition, the Health & Social Care Board’s head of ophthalmic services, Raymond Curran, highlighted that Northern Ireland has a broad definition of essential care.

“But we appreciate that what is essential to one patient might be different to another. There is a degree of clinical decision making around that and professional judgement,” he emphasised.

Mr Curran added that there are different approaches to lockdown across UK jurisdictions and definitions of what constitutes essential eye care may vary across UK regions as the COVID-19 landscape evolves.

“For this reason, it is important that all healthcare providers keep up to date with local advice and guidance,” Mr Curran said.

Addressing the nuances of when to provide care, the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) has published a statement setting out NHS England’s definition of essential eye care.

The statement also highlights that with the easing of lockdown restrictions there is an “expanded range” of situations where a patient’s eye care needs are likely to be deemed essential.

Examples of situations that may now qualify as essential care include patients who are anxious about their vision in the absence of clear clinical indications, patients with a minor reduction in vision or those who have been ‘making do’ with older spectacles and an out-of-date prescription.

Patients who require an appointment because of clinical risk factors that are being monitored by a clinician should also be offered care at this stage of the pandemic.

“While in the initial stages of the pandemic deferring these appointments was acceptably low risk and justified when balanced against the risks of providing face-to-face care, the passage of time since the last examination may now have increased the risk to the point where the patient’s needs now fall within the definition of essential care,” the OFNC highlights.

The full statement can be read online.

Vision and driving

This week has seen heightened public discourse around safe vision for driving.

Optometrists have shared their views on Dominic Cummings’ decision to make a 30-mile journey during lockdown to “test his eyesight.”

As always, we welcome your insight and perspectives on the issue through our newsdesk.

OT  asks…

Before COVID-19, roughly how often would you see a patient who continued to drive despite being told their vision was below the legal standard?
  • A few times a year

    326 57%
  • Less than every year

    159 27%
  • Every month

    35 6%
  • Never

    42 7%
  • More than once a month

    9 1%