A new year starts in lockdown

With lockdown restrictions now in place across the United Kingdom amidst rising coronavirus cases, OT  asks: how are you feeling about the restrictions?

2021 and mask

Though I doubt many of us had set our expectations too high after the rollercoaster of 2020, we’re only a week into the new year, and the days have felt like a series of crashing dominoes.

We have a new strain of the virus, coronavirus cases are rising – the Office for National Statistics reporting that one in 50 people in England have COVID-19 – and lockdowns are now in place across all four of the devolved nations.

Optical bodies have shared that practices can remain open to provide eye care in the current restrictions.

Guidance points practices towards the College of Optometrists’ amber phase advice, prioritising emergency and essential care on a needs and symptoms-led basis.

Routine appointments should only be provided if capacity permits and where it is in the patient’s best interest, the optical bodies have said. The AOP has also emphasised that, if routine care is to take place, practices need to ensure a continuation of “stringent” measures to reduce the risk of infection, including the use of longer appointment times to support infection control requirements.

For many optometrists, there are concerns about the potential risks to practice staff, as well as to patients, as well as the strain of another lockdown on personal and family lives.

There has been some positive news this week, however, with the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offering a glimmer of hope for the future of reducing the spread of the virus.

Optical bodies have also shared that, as frontline healthcare workers, optometrists and practice staff will be included in the second priority group for access to vaccination. In guidance published today, NHS England has confirmed that by mid-January NHS Trusts will establish ‘hospital hubs’ and will be the default provider of COVID-19 vaccinations for “all healthcare and social care workers.”

At the end of last year, I spoke to a few wellbeing practitioners about how optometrists can keep well during the winter – a time that can be difficult for many under normal circumstances, let alone with the additional pressures of COVID-19. Some of our conversation feels particularly salient now.

Speaking to OT about the anxiety and uncertainty that many optometrists have been feeling over the past year, Sheena Tanna-Shah, optometrist and mindfulness and meditation practitioner, emphasised the importance of checking in with how you are feeling, and reaching out to others.

She advised: “Take a look at who or what can support you in addressing some of your worries. Can you speak to a colleague, friend, employer, or family member?

“The more you are able to communicate about your concerns, the less they will overwhelm you. Whatever you are feeling or going through, remember you are not alone.”

While there is much to consider in this lockdown, a reminder that we are not alone is one I think we could perhaps use.

As always, the OT team are here to support readers in reporting the evolving situation and sharing your experiences. If you would like to share how your practice has been affected, or your experience of the lockdown, please email the OT team.

How confident are you feeling about practising during the third lockdown, compared to the first lockdown in spring?

  • Much more confident

    24 7%
  • I will not be practising during the lockdown

    19 5%
  • Much less confident

    176 51%
  • Somewhat less confident

    40 11%
  • Somewhat more confident

    53 15%
  • About the same level

    27 7%