PPE provision consultation: optometrists encouraged to share their views

The AOP has encouraged members to take part in a DHSC consultation which asks whether its provision of PPE to health care providers should be extended

Pexels/Anna Shvets

Optometrists are being encouraged to take part in a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) consultation considering whether it should extend its provision of free personal protective equipment (PPE) to health and care providers beyond March 2022.

The AOP has recommended members take part in the consultation, highlighting that PPE has become an “essential” part of practice.

The DHSC launched its centralised online PPE portal last year as demand for the protective equipment rose in response to the pandemic and updated infection prevention and control guidelines, leading to supply challenges and rising costs. The Government shared that PPE usage increased “at least three-fold” compared to 2019 for all items, and in some categories, “usage in one week during COVID-19 is the same as the total amount used in 2019.”

Health and social care providers across England, including optometrists, pharmacies and dentists, were invited to register, with the department suggesting approximately 53,000 providers signed up.

Currently, the DHSC has committed to deliver free PPE provision until 31 March 2022.

Launching the consultation, the DHSC said that though provision is due to end in spring, “given current case levels and guidance, we expect PPE usage to remain at COVID-19 levels beyond March 2022 putting significant upward pressure on health and care costs in the next financial year.”

As the department currently has sufficient stock to continue supporting providers through to 2023 if COVID-19 levels of PPE continue to be required from 1 April 2022, it is considering whether to extend the central provision of PPE.

The department is asking stakeholders from across health and social care, including optometrists, to share their views. Evidence gathered through the consultation will help to inform the decision taken and whether the same approach should apply across all providers.

Encouraging members to take part in the consultation, AOP clinical and professional director, Dr Peter Hampson, said: “PPE has become an essential part of everyday working life for optical professionals, and we fully endorse this provision being extended long term.

“We strongly recommend that all members take part – it takes just a few seconds to complete and will help ensure that optics continues to be supported in this vital way.”

The consultation runs until 31 October 2021 and can be accessed online, or by emailing [email protected]