Coronavirus: NHS England publishes specific guidance for optical practices
Screening questions for optical staff and practice posters are included in the latest resources
28 February 2020
A series of four standard operating procedures for GPs, pharmacy, dentistry and primary care optical settings have been published on the NHS England website.
The guidance covers the national approach to responding to COVID-19, including the three guiding principles of identifying, isolating and containing potential cases of the virus.
It also outlines patient contact over the phone and in practice, with suggested questions that can be asked by optical staff to determine a patient’s level of risk.
What practice staff should do following the transfer of a patient who may have COVID-19 from the practice is covered in the document, as well as considerations in a domiciliary setting.
AOP guidanceThe AOP has updated its COVID-19 guidance following the release of specific advice by NHS England for optical practices.
The AOP has emphasised that it is highly unlikely that patients who present to an optical practice with cold or flu-like symptoms will have the coronavirus.
“If patients inform you that they have any cold or flu-like symptoms before they arrive for their appointment then it is acceptable to advise them to rebook their appointment for when they have fully recovered,” the guidance states.
“If the patient only advises you of any cold or flu-like symptoms when they present to the practice, given the prolonged duration of close contact during an appointment, it is acceptable to advise the patient that you are unable to see them, and they should rebook on another day when they have recovered,” it adds.
At the latest General Optical Council (GOC) meeting on Wednesday (26 February), chief executive Lesley Longstone confirmed that the optical regulator is in weekly contact with NHS England about COVID-19.
“Things are starting to develop quite quickly in terms of new guidance. We are in regular contact with the NHS,” Ms Longstone shared.
She observed that although not every optical practice has an NHS contract, much of the information on COVID-19 is available through NHS.net.
NHS England is enabling any practice, regardless of whether they have an NHS contract, to register with NHS.net so they can access the latest coronavirus information.
The NHS England optical practice guidance
Where can I find the latest information on affected countries?
Optical staff are advised to regularly check the Public Health England website where updates on countries affected by coronavirus are published as well as protocols for travellers returning from these countries.
What questions can optical staff ask patients if there are concerns about coronavirus?
- Have you been to any of the following Category 1 areas in the last 14 days (even if you do not have symptoms)?
- Have you travelled to any of the following Category 2 areas in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if it’s mild)?
- Have you been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus?
- Have you been asked to self-isolate?
What should optical staff do if patients say ‘Yes’ to one of the above questions?
The default is to advise the patient to return home immediately and call NHS 111.
An unwell patient with a relevant travel history should be immediately placed in a room away from other patients and staff and NHS 111 called.
Invite the patient (and any accompanying family/representative) into the designated isolation space and advise others not to enter the area/room to minimise the risk of spreading infection.
Advise the patient to contact NHS 111 from the designated isolation area/room.
The NHS 111 clinician will contact the practice after their assessment to advise on whether the patient meets the case definition and provide advice on next steps, which may be:
- Case definition not met and routine care in practice may be resumed
- Case definition met: maintain isolation in current location pending transfer to defined destination.
What resources are available on coronavirus?
Optical practices are advised to display an NHS England coronavirus poster in a place where it can be seen before the patient enters the premises as well as at reception and waiting areas.
Within the latest guidance for optical practices, NHS England has included a suggested script on P15 that can be added to a practice’s telephone system, ideally to be played before a call is answered.
NHS England has also suggested text to be added to a practice’s online booking system and automated SMS appointment reminder service.
OT endeavours to keep the most up-to-date news on our website and this information was correct when published. However, the situation regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Please check OT’s rolling optics-specific coverage for the latest news and guidance on COVID-19.