Resumption of face-to-face GOS not yet agreed by NHS England

OFNC calls for clarity to enable practices to make arrangements to ensure the safety of their patients and staff

eye test equipment

A date for the full resumption of face-to-face General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) has not yet been agreed, it has been confirmed (5 June).

In a statement from the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC), it was announced that further discussions with NHS England have taken place on arrangements for when and how optical practices can provide more face-to-face eye care.

However, a date for full resumption of face-to-face GOS has not yet been agreed by NHS England.

This comes despite speculation in recent weeks that an announcement from NHS England was to be made.

We hope and expect that a resumption date will be announced soon and that the instructions from NHS England will be to provide service ‘from’ rather than ‘on’ that date

Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee

The OFNC is the national negotiating body for eye care in England with the Westminster Parliament, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS England-NHS Improvement. It comprises the leaders of the UK representative bodies: AOP, ABDO, FODO and BMA (for OMPs), and works in partnerships with the College of Optometrists and the General Optical Council.

The OFNC said: “We hope and expect that a resumption date will be announced soon and that the instructions from NHS England will be to provide service ‘from’ rather than ‘on’ that date. This will allow practices to make the arrangements they need to ensure the safety of their patients and staff. It would now be prudent for all practices to review their own plans to resume GOS work once the date is known.”

The statement confirmed that the OFNC is also discussing with NHS England the need for ongoing financial support for practices. It explained: “The need for social distancing and infection control will reduce their capacity significantly below pre-COVID levels. NHS England understands that support arrangements will need to work for all practices, including those that are not in a position to reopen at short notice. It has confirmed that the current average GOS payments support will be in place until at least the end of June.”

The statement added that the OFNC is “working hard with NHS England to develop a robust replacement system of support which is fair, works for all practices, and ensures that all primary eye care needs are met, without adding to existing pressures on GPs, ophthalmology departments and A&E.”

In an ‘OT Asks’ poll of 127 people, launched on 4 June, 41% of respondents said they were ‘ready now or would be ready next week,’ when asked: ‘When do you think your practice is likely to have the equipment and processes in place to feel prepared to start seeing patients in a form of routine practice?’

A further 38% said they would be ready ‘in the next one to three months,’ and 18% said they ‘did not have enough information yet to make a decision.’