COVID-19 funding for practices in England to continue through July
As negotiations for potential further funding continue, it has been agreed that previous levels of COVID-19 funding for GOS contractors in England will be extended until 31 July
The Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) has confirmed that, while negotiations continue around further support for practices, the previous level of COVID-19 funding for GOS contractors in England will continue for an additional month, until 31 July.
Negotiations with NHS England have been ongoing since the COVID-19 funding originally ended at 30 June, with the OFNC emphasising the need for ongoing support. This update will mean average GOS payments for this period being made in August in the usual way.
The OFNC is particularly urging NHS England to ensure that those practices in relatively deprived areas and which largely provide NHS care, as well as domiciliary providers that continue to face difficulty reaching vulnerable patients, can “survive and continue to provide NHS eye care in the recovery phase of the pandemic.”
The committee added that it is also exploring the cost implications of the ongoing infection control measures, such as PPE, as well as the need to prepare for a potential second wave, or local lockdowns.
The AOP, along with the other representative bodies that form the OFNC, previously penned an open letter to ministers to raise concerns over the “cliff-edge” to financial support at the end of June. The letter suggested that an abrupt end to the support could pose a threat for practices with reduced capacity and additional PPE costs, that may feel pressure to “prioritise private rather than NHS work in order to cover their costs and survive.”
On 2 July, the OFNC confirmed that NHS England had put a “very limited” proposal for further temporary funding to the committee, but this had been rejected by the committee as “inadequate and unworkable."
Outlining the temporary extension to the COVID-19 funding through July, the OFNC added: “We hope that we will be in a position to make a statement about these issues soon.”