Routine eye care in Scotland to resume from 3 August

The First Minister confirmed that routine eye care services will be able to be carried out in community practices and in patient’s homes

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Routine eye care in Scotland can resume in community optometry practices and patients’ own homes from Monday 3 August, following an announcement from the First Minister.

Nicola Sturgeon announced a series of re-opening dates for a variety of sectors and activities as Phase 3 of the country’s route out of lockdown continues.

A Scottish Government PCA update confirmed that from 3 August, routine eye care services can be provided within community optometry practice and in patients’ own homes. However, services remain suspended for individuals in residential and day centres, such as care homes.

In a response to the news, Optometry Scotland welcomed the announcement, calling it a “return to the new normal for optometry, dispensing and community eye care.”

“This is in line with demands from community eye care to let us manage all of our patients safely at the earliest opportunity and we are delighted that this decision has been made,” the organisation shared in a statement.

The financial support package for practices and mobile practices will remain in place at the current time, in recognition of the fact that practices will need time to prepare.

Commenting on the announcement, optometrist and AOP councillor, Kevin Wallace, said: “The Scottish Government’s announcement that optometrists can resume routine eye care is very welcome for the profession.

“This will allow practices to provide their full range of services and with the ongoing government financial support, will help practices continue to provide a vital service through this difficult period.”

Providing further information in response to the update, Optometry Scotland commented that since March, “the emphasis has been on what cannot be done.”

“We can now focus on what we can and will do in delivering care to all patients in a safe manner, either remotely with increasing use of technology, or face-to-face using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection control regimes.”

In resuming routine eye care, practitioners will be expected to continue prioritising emergency and essential eye care and those who are considered to be most at risk over routine services.

Practices can begin recalling patients and offering services to those requiring a routine eye examination. However, Optometry Scotland outlined that this is on the understanding that practitioners continue triaging patients remotely before determining their suitability for face-to-face care while utilising PPE.

Clinical, contact lens and dispensing services can now be offered to patients, Optometry Scotland explained, provided triaging is carried out and the care is delivered with mandated PPE.

When offering contact lens services, the organisation suggested the emphasis should remain on remote aftercare and lens replacement where possible. Clinical tests should also be risk assessed to ensure continued high standards of infection control.

Mobile eye care providers intending to provide services in a patient’s own home or sheltered accommodation will need to submit a declaration form and Health and Safety Risk Assessment to the relevant Health Board before they can resume.

Though routine care for patients in day and residential centres remains suspended, the PCA suggests they should continue to be triaged and managed remotely where possible.

According to Optometry Scotland, during the five peak weeks in the pandemic, 143 surveyed practices managed the needs of over 74,000 patients. Fewer than 5% required additional attention in Emergency Eye care Treatment Centres (EETCs).

“We acknowledge the huge efforts that community eye care professionals and staff have put into continuing emergency and essential services and so much more throughout the pandemic,” Optometry Scotland said in a statement. “We should all be very proud of the work that has been undertaken.”

Are you planning to resume routine eye care services in practice or in patients’ own homes after Monday 3 August? Get in touch with the OT team to share how you are approaching re-opening: [email protected]