COVID-19 funding talks for optical practices in England continue

Funding likely to be extended until 31 August, but limited to fixed practices that reach a minimum level of GOS1 activity

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Negotiations are continuing to agree the level of COVID-19 funding support for practices in England, the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) has confirmed.

Discussions have been ongoing since an initial announcement by NHS England that the first phase of funding would end on 30 June.

In a statement, the committee explained that COVID-19 funding is “likely to be extended until 31 August for fixed practices that reach a minimum level of historic GOS1 activity. There is likely to be a requirement of minimum activity of 40% or more, but this is yet to be confirmed. Support will also be extended into August for domiciliary providers, whatever their level of activity.”

The OFNC added: “We are only too aware of the front-line pressures on the sector and we continue to express this urgency in negotiations with NHS England about COVID-19 funding for optical practices, following the end of the first phase of funding on 30 June.”

The OFNC said that it is still in negotiations about further support beyond August for practices in deprived areas which largely provide NHS care and are struggling to recover, and for domiciliary providers who continue to face difficulties in reaching patients. It is also continuing to discuss the cost implications for all practices of personal protective equipment (PPE).

On 20 July the OFNC confirmed that as negotiations continued, the previous level of COVID-19 funding for GOS contractors in England would be extended until 31 July. This meant average GOS payments for this period will be made in August in the usual way.

This followed an update on 2 July that an NHS England proposal for further temporary funding to the OFNC had been rejected by the committee as “inadequate and unworkable.”

It is understood that the OFNC will make a further statement on funding in the next few days.