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Opchat Magazine General NewsGeneral News, April to June 2020

Leicestershire coronavirus lockdown: areas and changes
OKIA receives the INTERTEK GREEN LEAF MARK CERTIFICATION as an environmentally conscious organisation for the material used in the sutainable RESHAPE™ Eyewear Collection
Thousands to be offered repeat testing in care homes
New saliva test for coronavirus piloted in Southampton
Update from the UK Chief Medical Officers on the UK alert level
Full speed ahead as OFNC release NHS Letter on resuming GOS work.
Lockdown stories celebrated in new campaign
Banbridge optician helps toddler get back her confidence
News Alert 14.00 June 12th : Get Ready to Start under Amber Phase
Optometrist and author of a number of books shares Anniversary Livery Quiz prize
Support for recovery and transformation on the High Streets
College responds to reports of practices resuming routine eye care
OFNC statement: resumption of General Ophthalmic Services in England
Phosphorus Announces FDA Approval Of At-Home Saliva Test For COVID-19 in US
Dentist to reopen, car showrooms are open and schools are back but optics... only essential optometry
UK reaches 200,000 coronavirus testing capacity target a day early
Now it's Drive-thru IOP Testing in some US Practices, could it happen here in the UK?
Surgeon’s safety eyewear issue solved
A better way to test eyesight than 60 minutes of trial driving exists!
Vaccines and tests, a snapshot of news from the USA.
New video game for the Visually Impaired
Everyone in the United Kingdom with symptoms now eligible for coronavirus tests including all four Countries
First COVID-19 Vaccine Tested In the US Shows Promise in Data From Eight People
Ireland gets started for all services today.May 18th.
The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy published and updated 12 May 2020
Government expands expert team to rapidly roll out coronavirus test and trace programme
Otley woman’s life saved following visit to local opticians
FDA Approves Quidel’s Sofia 2, First Antigen Test to Help in the Rapid Detection of COVID-19
Complete transcript of PM's Speech to the nation last night.
Seems to take a pandemic of Covid proportions to hear Governemnt recognise Optometry amd eyecare services as part of primary care services
The truth about Community Antibody testing in the USA, where are they at this stage
Are “Green Shoots” as predicted on Opchat News beginning to surface?
Optometrists urge DIY caution after seeing increase in lockdown eye injuries
Restart plan expected this week and RCOO starts making plans for ophthalmology
Coronavirus test, track and trace plan launched on Isle of Wight
American Academy of Ophthalmology Releases COVID-19 Survey on its effects on Ophthalmology Practices and their patients
Optometrists warning over contact lens give away
FDA Authorizes First Test for Patient At-Home Sample Collection
NovaBay Pharmaceuticals Signs Agreement to Distribute COVID-19 Antibody Rapid Point-of-Care Test to US Health Care Professionals
Olympics chief brought in to boost PPE production
4D pharma announces expedited UK regulatory acceptance to commence Phase II study in COVID-19
CJRS claim portal for job retention is now open - 20 April 2020
The second mega-lab at Alderley Park in Cheshire has begun to test thousands of patient samples a day for coronavirus.
Nearly 5,000 visors have already been produced by Freemasons who have adapted their businesses production lines to meet demand, across England and Wales to provide PPE.
NHSE/I statement on redeploying the optical workforce and College Response
Call to action – act on eye problems during this Covid Lockdown
Coronavirus: AstraZeneca to start trial on COVID-19 treatment drug
Novavax Accelerates Initiation of COVID-19 Vaccine Trial to Mid-May
Health Secretary launches biggest diagnostic lab network in British history to test for coronavirus
Industry responds to call to arms to build British diagnostics industry at scale
NHS works with tech firms to help care home residents and patients connect with loved ones
The Association of Optometrists warn gaps in aid for self-employed will have a devastating impact on eye health practitioners
Could hydroxychloroquin possibly be an early answer in treatment and prevention in Covid 19 patients?
£300 million announced for community pharmacies to support them during coronavirus outbreak
First new ventilators to roll off production line this weekend as industry answers call to step up manufacturing
PHN creates permanent page to list all Optical Companies providing emergency supplies and services to practices during pandemic.
Government launches new drive on coronavirus tests for frontline NHS staff
Financial and Business Planning during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Many Drugs Already Approved by FDA May Have Promise Against COVID-19
UK launches whole genome sequence alliance to map spread of coronavirus
New technology challenge to support people who are isolating
Vaccine trials among recipients of £20 million coronavirus research investment
Newsflash 8.30 pm Monday Prime Minister calls for complete lockdown for most
Urgent Advice to all Optical Practices and Practitioners in England – 23 March 2020
Read Archived General News from January to March 2020

Leicestershire coronavirus lockdown: areas and changes

July 2020

Leicestershire Lockdown Map  hspace=
Areas of Leicestershire that are included in the localised coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and what this means.

On 29 June, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock set out the local action being taken in Leicester following a surge in coronavirus cases in the area.
This morning, the local councils set out the following areas of Leicestershire that are included in the localised lockdown:

in Blaby District:

Braunstone Town (including Fosse Park)
Glen Parva

Leicester Forest East (east of the M1)
Thorpe Astley
in Charnwood:
all areas of Oadby and Wigston

See latest information and advice on coronavirus for Leicester.

OKIA receives the INTERTEK GREEN LEAF MARK CERTIFICATION as an environmentally conscious organisation for the material used in the sutainable RESHAPE™ Eyewear Collection

June 2020

RESHAPE™ OKIA strengthens its commitment to sustainability and has recently been awarded the Intertek Green Leaf Mark, a consumer product and systems verification that confirms your environmental claims have been independently verified and can thus be used to enhance the marketability of your product.

The certification comes as a result of the company’s development of BIO-RPET, a revolutionary material that embraces the 3R eco concept (recycle / reduce / recover) and takes form in RESHAPE™, an upcycling eyewear collection crafted exclusively from 5 water bottles to produce 1 pair of eyeglasses.

The RESHAPE™ collection is made of 100% recycled PET material, a petroleum-based product that is globally known as safe, lightweight and flexible. This material is also 100% BPA free and allows the production of frames with a high impact resistance. The upgraded version of RESHAPE™ can ultimately break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass after a 5-year biodegradation process.

With the Intertek Green Leaf Mark, manufacturers can provide business clients and consumers with the confidence that the environmental claims concerning their product(s) have been verified by an international, independent third-party testing, auditing and certification body in terms of Biodegradability, Recycled Content and ECO Claim (referred to verifying the chemical components).

RESHAPE™ represents not only a marvellous success for OKIA but also a great milestone in the sustainable eyewear industry and the Green Leaf certification is an additional goal in its virtuous path toward a better world, raising the company’s profile as an environmentally conscious organization.

Thousands to be offered repeat testing in care homes

June 2020

10,000 residents and staff across over 100 care homes will be given coronavirus tests as part of a new surveillance study.

Research will give detailed picture of coronavirus infection in care homes in England and mean care homes can react quickly to outbreaks

It will track who has the virus, past exposure and infection over time

Approximately 10,000 people in care homes will be given repeat testing as part of a new government study into coronavirus to understand more about its spread in these settings.

The study will take place across over 100 care homes in England with swab tests (known as a PCR test to test if a person currently has the virus) and blood (antibody) tests for all consenting staff and residents over the next year.

This will provide reassurance for those living and working in care homes and allow them to react quickly to outbreaks.

New saliva test for coronavirus piloted in Southampton

June 2020

A weekly coronavirus (COVID-19) testing model using a new ‘no-swab’ saliva test is to be piloted in Southampton from this week (22 June) was announced by Matt Hancock this morning.

New coronavirus saliva test to be trialled in Southampton

Weekly tests can be completed by transferring saliva into a sample pot

Over 14,000 GP staff, other essential key workers and university staff and their households will participate in the first phase of the trial
Participants will be able to complete coronavirus tests at home by putting their saliva into a sample pot to be tested for current infections of the virus.
GP staff, other essential key workers, university employees and members of their households will be among the first groups to participate in the pilot, with test kits delivered either to their home or place of work for them to complete every week.

Samples will be collected safely from homes by University of Southampton staff or returned to an agreed location on a weekly basis and participants will receive test results within 48 hours.
Read full story on our Covid Hub.

Update from the UK Chief Medical Officers on the UK alert level

June 2020

An update from the CMOs for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the alert level in the UK.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended that the COVID-19 alert level should move from Level 4 (A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially) to Level 3 (A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation).

The CMOs for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reviewed the evidence and agree with this recommendation to move to Level 3 across the UK.

There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues. It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.

"We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues." Said Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty

Full speed ahead with caution, as OFNC release NHS Letter on resuming GOS work.

June 2020

Today, June 17th , NHS England finally issues new guidance and an updated standard operating procedure (SOP), confirming that the sector can once again provide the full range of GOS services with immediate effect, subject to appropriate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures.

The OFNC welcomes the return of routine NHS sight testing in England in line with the new SOP. This should enable the sector to gradually meet the pent-up demand for eye healthcare, as well as continuing to provide essential and urgent care and to keep pressure off GPs, A&E and hospital eye services.

The return to routine GOS work in England will have its challenges. In particular, providing care in a way that manages infection risks during the pandemic will at least halve practice capacity, as recognised by NHS England. The impact on practices’ income will be even greater. The OFNC has told NHS England that a premature end to COVID-19 funding will significantly increase the risk of practice closures and adversely affect, patients, the wider NHS and public health.

That is why the OFNC wrote to DHSC Ministers on Friday 12 June urging them to put in place further transitional funding arrangements for primary eye care beyond the end of June.

Although NHS England’s new guidance states current funding arrangements will cease at the end of June, it also commits to work with the OFNC on the financial support that practices will need from 1 July to manage the transition, prioritise remote consultations, and to help cover the extra costs of PPE and other infection control measures.

NHS England has also acknowledged to the OFNC the additional challenges and costs that domiciliary providers will face. These include operationalising three weeks’ notice requirements, additional IPC measures and the increased challenges of working with care homes during the pandemic.

We welcome the commitment to working constructively with the OFNC on all these issues and are pleased that Ministers and NHS England have responded to the OFNC’s concerns.

Discussions on future funding will continue this week and we will provide more information as soon as we can.

College confirms a move from Amber to Green Phase in ts RAG table

Lockdown stories celebrated in new campaign

June 2020

Chloe and Pebble the dog!Specsavers is celebrating the real-life stories of customers and store colleagues during lockdown with a new campaign, "We were there", that went live this weekend.

Launched with a 90-second ad, it shows how – with stores closed for regular business but open for essential and urgent care - practitioners changed the way they worked to help people outside the normal test room environment, offering eye and hearing care for people in car parks, on doorsteps and at picnic tables.

And it highlights how eyecare professionals played their part in saving the sight and potentially the lives of others.

Giles Edmonds, clinical services director, says, ‘While still being available only for essential and urgent care, we believe it is the right time to celebrate some of the positives that have come out of this incredibly difficult time for customers and for the optical profession. There is no doubt that our partners and our clinicians went beyond the call of duty in the way they responded to the crisis.
‘We are also keen to encourage customers in England to come forward if they have noticed any change in their eyesight – according to new research [i] one third of people in the UK have noticed a deterioration in their eyesight during lockdown.

‘And our own data on hospital referrals shows that in England alone, compared with the same 10-week period last year, we have referred 80,000 fewer patients. Of most concern clinically are those whose symptoms would not yet be noticeable, such as those with early glaucoma or early diabetic maculopathy or early AMD.

‘It goes without saying that we continue to adhere stringently to all current NHS England and professional guidelines. No patient can be seen without a full triage to determine in the store professional’s judgement whether they can be seen under the definition of essential care.’

Martin O'Neill The new ad was shown for the first time on ITV1 on Saturday 13 June and the campaign will be running on social media with stories from the colleagues and customers who took part in the making of the ad.
Martin O’Neill, ophthalmic partner in Kilmarnock, says: ‘I feel delighted to be part of the campaign. It demonstrates that we have been there to help the public during this difficult time. It shows we care.

‘Lockdown has been a very challenging but rewarding period; changing many of our process and ways to best serve our customers. I’m looking forward to the new “normal” and seeing many smiling familiar faces returning to use our services.’

Mark Edwards, Retail Director at Specsavers Cwmbran, adds: ‘I was honoured to be asked to help out with this. It means a lot that we can personally share with people our pride at being able to serve them in this difficult period.’

Alissa Charlesworth, ophthalmic director from Chesterfield, opens and closes the film, reassuring customers that ‘We’re here for you wherever and whenever you need our care. In store, by phone, by video or online.’

Other colleagues featured in the film are Sara Saunders, ophthalmic director from Otley, Zetun Arif, optometrist director for domiciliary in Liverpool, Aekta Patel, audiology director in Bedford, Rizwan Choonara, ophthalmic director in Stroud, Ruth Lalor, ophthalmic director in Newton Mearns, Johnny da Silva, audiology partner in Peterborough and Jack Collins, a trainee dispensing optician from Chelmsley Wood.

Some of the patients featured include Chloe in Wokingham, whose dog Pebble ate her glasses, Richard in Runcorn who was referred for a detached retina, and Douglas from Sydenham, whose lost hearing aids were replaced, and two-year-old Isabella from Dundee who was fitted with glasses for the first time.

Banbridge optician helps toddler get back her confidence

June 2020

Heidi Kilpatrick
A 16-MONTH-OLD girl can now play happily with her toys and on her bouncy castle after being fitted with glasses at Specsavers during lockdown.

Heidi Kilpatrick had been referred to a hospital orthoptic clinic back in February with an appointment set up for April. Naturally, this had to be cancelled due to coronavirus with no new date planned in the near future.

But her mum Debbie Woods began to get concerned when she noticed the turn in her daughter’s eye getting worse. A friend suggested Specsavers’ online RemoteCare service, a new, free video and phone consultation service for anyone looking for sight or hearing advice.

Once Debbie, who lives in Markethill, had completed the online form she got a call the next morning from Wayne Watson, Banbridge Specsavers ophthalmic partner.

Wayne Watson says: ‘We usually look after children from the age of three upwards, so I contacted our local health board advisor for guidance and was asked to liaise with the hospital’s orthoptic clinic. As the clinic did not have a date to resume routine services, they asked if I could see Heidi.

‘Although the clinic had asked me to complete Heidi’s test, I required further approval from the health board advisor. Authorisation was granted and when I refracted Heidi I found she was very long-sighted and I prescribed her glasses.’

Heidi Kilpatrick at Specsavers Banbridge with Wayne Debbie was pleased she made the call to Specsavers and said solutions fell into place very quickly.

‘Within 10 days of my first phone call with Wayne, Heidi was proudly wearing her new glasses. The difference it has made to Heidi is like “night and day”.

Before wearing glasses, Heidi was more introverted and less active, but now that she can see everything clearly she is playing happily with her toys and her bouncy castle, taking notice of everything that is around her and walking about the house holding onto us or to furniture. And it’s all because she can see properly now with her glasses. I’ve also noticed that the turn in Heidi’s eye isn’t at all obvious when she has her glasses on,’ Heidi says.

‘Of course, we totally understood that routine hospital eye checks had to be put on hold because of coronavirus, but I felt I needed to take positive action as Heidi’s turn was definitely deteriorating.

‘We will of course at some stage be able to go to the hospital’s orthoptic clinic, but meanwhile we have a happy, confident and contented little girl and that really means the world to Alastair [my partner] and I.’

Debbie thanked Wayne and Jeffrey at Banbridge Specsavers. ‘They were both so helpful, liaising with the health board on our behalf and looking after Heidi,’ says Debbie. ‘She really likes her new glasses and is getting used to wearing them even though she is so young. We went back into the store to get bands fitted to the sides to help Heidi keep her glasses on and it’s really worked a treat.’

News Alert 14.00 June 12th : Get Ready to Start under Amber Phase

June 2020

The College of Optometrists has announced that from Monday 15 June optometry practices across England can move to the amber phase in its guidance.

The College has said this will enable practices to provide needs or symptom led patient care, while still prioritising essential and urgent care.

Further information just received at 19.00 hours

General Optical Council statement on re-opening optical practices

The GOC has issued a statement on the re-opening of optical practices during the Covid-19 emergency. In summary, the statement confirms that
• Opticians have always been exempted from closure. Therefore, in the GOC’s view, this means that registrants are able to deliver private eye care including private sight tests/eye examinations and aftercare appointments in line with country-specific guidance, GOC standards and professional judgements

• Practices working under GOS contracts will only be able to provide the services the NHS specifies. At this time, routine NHS eye care services are suspended pending further announcements by the NHS in the four UK nations.

• Practices must follow government guidance for businesses to work safely during the Covid-19 emergency period to ensure that patients and staff are safe.

• Practices which are open (or are looking to re-open following closure) must ensure that they conduct a full risk assessment before doing so, assess each patient’s situation on a case-by-case basis before offering care, and strictly comply with their obligations under the Standards of Practice and Standards for Optical Businesses in relation to infection control and patient safety.

With statements this evening from the GOC and College of Optometrists, we advise that from Monday 15 June members can start to meet the full range of eye care needs of patients who self-fund their eye care.

Until final confirmation from NHS England and NHS Improvement about the provision of NHS funded primary eye care services in England routine sight testing can start Monday but only if self funded. We await ti all clear from OFNC for NHS testing.

The College will also publish a more details as they become available on its site here

Optometrist and author of a number of books shares Anniversary Livery Quiz prize

June 2020

Window of the Soul
'Optometrist and author, David Baker, has been named one of two joint runners-up in a VE Day 75th Anniversary Livery Quiz, which earned him a prize of £150 to be shared equally between the charity of his Livery Company, the WCSM, and a charity of his choice.

David says 'It was a bit of fun to while away some time during lockdown and came as a complete surprise to be a runner-up, but nice to be able to pass on some funds to good causes,'

We reported last year on another of David's successes: his latest book, 'Window of the Soul', had been nominated by his publisher, FeedARead, for the 2019 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize.

The prize has championed outstanding popular science writing since 1988 and is the only major international prize that celebrates all areas of science writing for a non-specialist audience.

Support for recovery and transformation on the High Streets

June 2020

You should register and take advantage of the free webinars here

The High Streets Task Force has launched a range of cutting-edge tools, training, information and advice for high streets across England as part of the Government’s efforts to reopen safely from 15 June and support their recovery.

This support is open to local councils and all organisations involved with high streets and includes free access to online training programmes, webinars, data and intelligence on topics including recovery planning and coordination, public space and place marketing.

The support is part of the Task Force’s four-year programme which will focus on the long-term transformation of town and city centres and helping communities reimagine and revitalise their high streets. The announcement follows the opening of the Government’s £50m Reopening High Streets Safely Fund which will support local councils to safely reopen their high streets and other commercial areas.

Task Force Chair appointed

Today, the Task Force has also confirmed that Mark Robinson, co-founder of Ellandi and leading investor in regional town centres, has been appointed as the Chair of the Task Force Board. The new Board will guide the work of the Task Force and act as a national voice for high streets, supporting them to transform town and city centres.

High Streets Minister Simon Clarke MP said: “The re-opening of our High Streets will be a crucial part of kick-starting our economic recovery and restarting town life
“That is why I welcome the appointment of Mark Robinson to head up the High Streets Task Force. I know that Mark will be a strong voice for ensuring that local businesses get the support they need to reopen safely in the coming weeks.
“Combined with our £50 million Reopening High Streets Safely Fund, the work of the Task Force will support our High Streets through this challenging time and ensure they have the tools they need to get back on their feet.

Mark Robinson, Chair of the Task Force, said: “I am delighted and honoured to be asked to lead this initiative. No-one underestimates the challenges to our town centres, but this long-term initiative, running until 2024, shows the government’s commitment to our towns and the transformation required. I look forward to making change happen.
“The Task Force has already provided invaluable advice to town centre stakeholders in the current crisis and we will continue to build capacity, promoting best practice, led by research and evidenced by data. The Task Force will provide a rallying point for all of the people who care about our High Streets and advocate the change that is needed.”

Simon Quin, Executive Director of the Task Force said:
"The High Streets Task Force opens for business today. We are making our support generally available for the first time. We have extensive resources focused on making town centres more vital and viable and many ways to help towns respond to COVID-19. All of these are available free."

Their website has far more content than you may have seen in the past. We now have online training open to everyone. We welcome those new to the Task Force and encourage you to explore the site and our other resources

The Task Force has already been working with high streets to help them adopt its COVID-19 Recovery Framework. Gary Maddock, Town Centre Manager of St Helens, explains how they have accessed Task Force guidance:

“The Coronavirus crisis is forcing us to think and act differently. In St. Helens, we are developing our recovery plan working alongside partners, including those from across the Liverpool City Region, using the High Streets Task Force COVID-19 Recovery Framework.”

“From a position of great uncertainty, the Framework and Task Force resources immediately made sense. Their help is incredibly valuable in plotting a course for the crisis recovery and longer-term transformation of our high streets."

Over the next four years, the Task Force will work directly with towns and cities to provide dedicated expert support, mentoring, guidance and access to data and intelligence.

College responds to reports of practices resuming routine eye care

June 2020

We recognise that there is considerable frustration at reports suggesting that some practices may be breaking national guidelines and providing routine eye care appointments that are not essential or urgent/emergency.

National policies have made it clear that at present, practices can only provide essential and urgent/emergency eye care. This definition is open to some degree of professional judgement, to enable practitioners to act in patients’ best interests, but that does not mean business as usual.

As the COVID-19 infection rates decrease, we expect that practices across the UK will be able to see more patients. This does not, however, mean that there will be a return to routine eye care immediately. When the national policies change, eye examinations should only be provided for patients with needs or symptoms, only when PPE is available, and the College’s recommended modifications to clinical practice should be put in place.

It is up to the national health systems in each of the four nations to determine the date that policies can be changed. We recognise that the dates and levels of primary eye care that can be delivered may be different across the four nations.

We recommend that you prepare your practice for the future easing of current COVID-19 measures.

The frustration from competing colleagues over some practices apparently opening for routine business comes from a video purportedly showing a Specsavers Practice boasting of being opn for business.

This controversial video was circulating widely on sector forums and social media last week . The footage showed a Specsavers practitioner explaining how the practice at which he is said was open, extending its hours and benefiting from other practices being closed/operating remotely.

In a statement for Specsavers, Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director, said: “The mandate given to our partners in England is very clear – to stringently adhere to all the current NHS England and professional guidelines.

“The video that has appeared on social media featuring an individual Specsavers colleague does not represent the overall company’s view and is disappointing as it appears misleading about the intention and motivation of our thousands of committed professionals across the nation.”

Ed: We are aware of a far greater frustration that dentists are opening despite the greater threats from their treatment routines, let alone car sales areas and non essential trading. Hopefully we can join the hairdressers in their eventual opening.

OFNC statement: resumption of General Ophthalmic Services in England

June 2020

The OFNC has today had further discussions with NHS England on arrangements for when and how optical practices can provide more face-to-face eye care. Despite recent speculation, NHS England has confirmed that a date for full resumption of face-to-face GOS has not yet been agreed.

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.

We are also discussing with NHS England the need for ongoing financial support for practices since the need for social distancing and infection control will reduce their capacity significantly below pre-Covid levels. NHSE 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 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.

Phosphorus Announces FDA Approval Of At-Home Saliva Test For COVID-19 in US

June 2020

Phosphorus announced today that the FDA granted the Emergency Use Authorization request for its saliva test for COVID-19 that features at-home sample collection. The test is available by ordering online, as well as through health care and employer partnerships aimed at safely resuming operations.

This approval by the federal government comes after a rigorous round of validation studies.

This is only the second at-home unsupervised saliva test approved so far by the FDA.

Using a saliva-based collection method is simple and less intrusive, in comparison to the prevalent swab-based methods. This ease-of-use is a key characteristic to enabling the widespread and repetitive testing protocols proposed by experts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

To order the tests, consumers must take the following steps:

Step 1—Choose and order the test through the online checkout process.
Step 2—Complete a medical questionnaire.
Step 3—An independent physician will review the medical information.
Step 4—Once approved, a sample collection kit will be shipped to the consumer’s home.
Step 5—Test results will be available within 72 hours after receipt at the laboratory and will be accompanied by a consultation from medical personnel.

Phosphorus is also partnering with health care facilities and employers to conduct COVID-19 testing while limiting exposure risks by collecting samples at home.

“COVID testing is essential to getting life back to normal. This test will allow people from coast to coast to be tested from the safety of their homes with the oversight of medical personnel,” Alexander Bisignano, co-founder and CEO of Phosphorus, said in a company news release. “We thank the FDA for their hard work throughout this crisis and the quick action they have taken. We look forward to helping the country re-open.”

Phosphorus testing protocols use strict standards to ensure accurate and reliable test results. Phosphorus is one of the first Emergency Use Authorized assays to have conducted a rigorous clinical agreement study above and beyond the synthetic sample performance study initially required by the FDA.

The company is in full compliance with FDA Guidelines for Diagnostic Tests for Coronavirus Disease-2019 during a Public Health Emergency and submitted validation data under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) authority.

The tests were developed at Phosphorus’ CLIA laboratory in Secaucus, New Jersey. OraSure’s Oragene·Dx (OGD-510) saliva collection device proved to be a reliable method for test performance comparable to gold standard methods.

Phosphorus provides advanced genomic tests using next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies to healthcare providers and hospitals. The Phosphorus laboratory is CLIA and CAP certified and licensed for testing in all 50 states. It has re-oriented its operations to focus on COVID-19 testing in order to bring its sensitive testing methodologies and extensive experience in genomics to this public health crisis.

Dentist to reopen, car showrooms are open and schools are back but optics... only essential optometry

June 2020

Are some of those groups and indeed the relaxation on lockdown too early?

There is a consensus that the one major mistake that has created higher infection and death rates in the UK was to delay the decision on lockdown made on 23rd March 2020. Infections rates per day were climbing to 833 per day based on the previous week’s total infected numbers.

Germany introduced lockdown on 13th March and despite discussions on greater testing and contact tracing the lockdown appears to have had the most influence on the country’s death rate.

If we were to ignore our late lockdown, Cheltenham Horse racing Festival and Liverpool FC match plus many more events, we locked down at the moment that the daily climbing rate of new infections was 833.

A number that you can argue was much underestimated due to the chronic lack of testing compared to Germany and other countries. Even today with a recent reported average number of new infections over the last week, per day is 1917 (updated for 3rd June and climbing) person infected daily.

The estimate of the number of new daily cases across the UK is 11,300 by the Covid Symptom study (see earlier report) a sevenfold addition on the numbers provided from the tests being carried out by the UK.

The UK.Gov daily numbers reported on our Covid Hub includes reported Covid Sufferers with symptoms and checks of key workers and no one knows the percentage of asymptomatic sufferers.

So we are in uncertain times but what; might be asked, is, if we were late or not enforcing lockdown when the daily rate was 833/day then should we not have waited until at least we had met those same infection rates on the way down.

Bav Shergill helped by Norville

Looking at the graph (figs obtained from Daily UK.Gov by PHN) this could predict at least another week before we arrive back at the 833/day level but given the increased testing compared to the lockdown day maybe 2 weeks would be more sensible.

Thus providing safer levels and providing an opportunity for test and trace to prove itself.

In the meantime, it would appear that the difference in the level of importance of dentistry provision over vision care once again pervades the sentiments of NHS England.

Vision care and the return to regular eye tests provides a lifeline to many people who need a regular eye test. Many people in the population did not know that practices were open for essential services during the lockdown and the older age groups were either too frightened or shielding to attempt to enquire. There has been a wealth of anecdotal evidence of people worried about losing sight, especially those with maturing cataracts.

The profession seems to be discounted as a valuable health service despite the valiant efforts of the OFNC and the optical membership bodies.

On March 30th, Bob Hutchinson Past President of the GP with Primary Healthcare at the RSM wrote  to the head of Dental and Optical Commissioning raising the point that our profession and its practices should be used to facilitate the ability to test and record results as community testing stations which would have raised our profile as health professionals.

This message was repeated in the excellent paper prepared by FODO and submitted later in the year on 8th May to the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

It reinforces our Editor’s suggestion as follows:

Supporting mass testing and vaccination once they become available

19. Mass testing is essential if we are to minimise the adverse health and socioeconomic impacts of Covid-19. This can be done safely and at scale in community-based sites across the UK – for example, in opticians and audiology practices which can facilitate social distancing and effectively triage patients until routine care is fully re-established. These facilities are in every community but are underused. They have clinically trained staff on site. It would seem a serious error of judgement not to use them while forcing key workers and older people to drive miles for tests.
20. Some eye care and hearing providers are already supporting testing, and many more would be keen to continue to do so as part of the national pandemic response. (FODO 8th May)

So, we at PHN ask the question yet again. Why not let us get back to normal service and add the provision of mass testing linking us through our excellent practice management systems to local contact tracing

Or shall we be ignored once more?

The effects on our profession of us being recognised as a true primary care health force of clinicians fighting this pandemic could have a huge beneficial effect for us and on eyecare in the UK for many years to come.

College responds today:

We understand the frustration of not having a set date for the resumption of non-urgent or emergency and essential eye care. We cannot give a specific date yet, as this will be advised by governments and national healthcare authorities. We have been liaising with national health leaders, and hope that they will be able to provide clarity on when the 'new normal' in eye care services can begin

UK reaches 200,000 coronavirus testing capacity target a day early

May 2020

Following the rapid expansion of coronavirus testing, the UK reached the 200,000 capacity target on Saturday 30 May, including capacity for 40,000 antibody tests a day

The extensive capacity now available makes this one of the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities

To achieve this more than 150 drive through and mobile testing sites have been set up across the UK and the new NHS Test and Trace service has been rolled out to ramp up the coronavirus response The UK-wide target to build testing capacity to 200,000 tests a day has been reached.

The rapid expansion of testing capabilities has led to the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history. The capacity of NHS and Public Health England labs has been more than doubled, over 150 drive through and mobile testing units are in operation, and new innovative testing solutions such as home testing kits and lab-based antibody tests have been introduced from scratch.

The 200,000 testing capacity target was reached last Saturday, at 205,634 (Saturday 30 May).

Now it's Drive-thru IOP Testing in some US Practices, could it happen here in the UK?

May 2020

American Ophthalmologist Shares Experience Implementing Drive-Through IOP Checks Into Practice
Source: By Gillian McDermott for Eyewire News

While many eye care practices remain open only for emergent and urgent care, and others slowly reopening with many patients staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, providers are exploring alternate ways to maintain the health of patients with chronic conditions such as glaucoma. One intriguing example is drive-through IOP checks.

Geoffrey T. Emerick, MD, told Eyewire News that his partner Michael Koval, MD, introduced this curbside form of care at their practice, Consulting Ophthalmologists, with locations in Farmington and Glastonbury, Connecticut, after hearing about it from Gerami Seitzman, MD, and other colleagues.

“We incorporated many of their ideas,” Dr. Emerick said. “We go through the schedule a couple of weeks in advance and identify appropriate patients. These are typically older patients with a history of stable glaucoma who would prefer to not come into the office, but anyone who needs an IOP check and doesn’t report any change in vision or other complaints is a good candidate.”

The process combines IOP checks with phone calls or video visits. A secretary calls select patients, offers them the option of drive-through service, and explains the logistics. Patients are asked to wear masks and told that only an IOP reading will be performed; discussion will occur later that day during a scheduled phone call.

The practice alerts its landlord and the building’s other tenants about the service and sets up cones around the side of the building. A staff member and signage direct patients where to go: a pop-up canopy big enough to drive through that offers shelter if it is raining and shade if the sun is bright, which could make it harder for patients to keep their eyes open. The practice schedules four to five IOP measurements every 15 minutes for a maximum of 30 patients.

“That’s plenty for one doctor because doing that many phone calls takes at least another 3 hours,” Dr. Emerick said. “By the time the doctor gets back inside the office, the first patients are home, so we’re ready to start calling.”

One of the practice’s writers assists the doctor. The writer has a clipboard with a sheet for each patient that lists his or her name, appointment time, phone number, medications, ocular history, most recent visual acuity, and last IOP reading.

“This helps avoid embarrassments like applanating a prosthetic eye!” Dr. Emerick said. “The patient shows photo ID, and then the IOP is taken. The doctor wears gloves, a mask, and an eye shield. We started with an iCare ic100 tonometer (Icare USA) but found positioning to be an issue, so [we] switched to an ic200, which allows for greater tilting. We have been impressed with the results, which match up with historical Goldmann IOPs and occasional Tono-Pen rechecks at the time of the drive-through.”

According to Dr. Emerick, the reception for this approach to glaucoma care has been amazing.

“It has been a great way to reconnect with patients we may not have seen for a while,” he said. “We get many thanks and comments like “I hope you’re using sunscreen’ and ‘Did you go to medical school in a parking lot?’”

More important, he said, is that they have identified many patients who have required a change in therapy ranging from the addition of topical medication to selective laser trabeculoplasty to urgent surgery.

The practice reopened both of its offices in late May but will maintain the drive-through service.

Dr. Emerick said, “This has been a satisfying and important addition to our care of patients with glaucoma, and we will continue to offer it for the foreseeable future.”

Surgeon’s safety eyewear issue solved

May 2020

Bav Shergill helped by Norville
Good vision, alongside full protection from inhalation during cauterisation, was the challenge for a leading Consultant Dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in treating patients who might be infected with Covid 19.

Consultant Bav Shergill specialises in removing cancerous lesions with minimum tissue loss and had tried reading specs under a diving mask but the seal was not complete and he feared inhaling some of the fumes.

Reaching out to his longstanding local optician in Hove, an innovative approach was needed, as independent optom Sophie Taylor-West explained, “I was keen to help Dr Shergill carry on with his lifesaving work. As a consultant dermatologist a lot of skin cancer surgery involves cauterisation and he needs to ensure that he is not inhaling any fumes. I approached Norville to see if they could help. We always use them for the weird and wonderful jobs,” said Sophie.

Norville Sales Director, Paul Willis, suggested the Norville Res1 breathing apparatus insert which would provide effective vision and maintain the mask’s seal.

“I have had a lot of experience with this kind of safety eyewear in the past so had a good idea of how to approach the challenge. We made up an insert with an intermediate working distance lens, plus an anti-fog coating, which seems to be doing the trick,” said Paul.

Sophie was delighted to help the patient - “They arrived the next day and seem perfect for the job.”

A better way to test eyesight than 60 minutes of trial driving exists!

May 2020

ABDO President Jo Holmes FBDO says, "During this pandemic, essential/urgent/emergency eye care is still being provided throughout the UK and if you feel that your eyesight is compromised, due to any sudden visual changes or illness, stay safe and book an appointment directly with your optical practice, for a full eye health check in the first instance. If you are worried about your vision and driving, an optometrist can check your eyesight and assess it in line with the DVLA standards to drive: An optometrist will examine your eyes for signs of visual deterioration or disease, and advise of the best course of action to take including any change needed in your spectacle prescription. It is very important to have regular eye health checks with your optometrist, and to follow the guidance and advice, set out by the General Optical Council."

The AOP concurs:

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) wants to remind motorists that if they have any concerns about their vision, they should contact their optometrist, at their local opticians, before driving a car or vehicle.
With an estimated 2900 road casualties caused by poor vision every year1 the AOP runs an annual road safety campaign, Don’t swerve a sight test, designed to encourage all drivers to think about their vision and driving.

In 2019 the AOP reported that almost 40% of optometrists in the UK see as many as two patients a month who continue to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard2 and one in 20 UK motorists admitting they’ve doubted their own vision yet done nothing about it.

Dr Peter Hampson, Clinical Director for the AOP said: “We are seeing a rise in the number of people who have a disregard for how important good vision is for driving ability and it’s impacting the safety of the individuals who use our roads.

“Sight loss can often be gradual, and can go unnoticed, so if you’re a driver and have concerns about your vision, while routine sight tests are currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, most practices are open for essential and urgent eyecare and will be able to offer advice over the phone.”

Poor Eyesight at the heart of government? PM discovers Presbyopia at 55 years old !

Holly Briggs and Sara at Otley

The Prime Minister’s special adviser Dominic Cummings said he felt that his eyesight had been affected by coronavirus as his explanation for taking a drive on Easter Sunday.

This prompted journalists to ask Boris Johnson yesterday, 25 May, including Rowena Mason of the Guardian, whether he expected people to believe Mr Cummings had to take a 60-mile round trip to test his sight.

This prompted Mr Johnson to reply: “On the point about eyesight, I am having to wear spectacles for the first time in years”, adding he thought it was “very plausible that eyesight can be a problem associated with coronavirus”.

Let us hope that both the Prime Minister and his adviser consult their optometrist – remotely – soon for some essential eye care advice and guidance.

ED: If PM survived the effects of Presbyopia till 55, one wonders what his distance driving VA was like?

T-Shirts with a covid theme abound on the internet, this one being featured in The Times today.

Vaccines and tests, a snapshot of news from the USA.

May 2020

Early Data Show Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Generates Immune Responses

Moderna reported positive interim data from a phase 1 study of its vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2, with results showing that mRNA-1273 elicited neutralizing antibody titer levels in all eight initial participants in the low- and mid-dose cohorts, reaching or exceeding levels generally seen in convalescent sera.

In the ongoing trial, which is being led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), subjects receive mRNA-1273 at a dose of either 25 mcg, 100 mcg or 250 mcg. Moderna noted that immunogenicity data are currently available for the 25-mcg and 100-mcg doses after two vaccinations, and at the 250 mcg level after one dose.
Dose-Dependent Increases in Immunogenicity

According to Moderna, dose-dependent increases in immunogenicity were seen across the 45 patients at the three dose levels, and between prime and boost within the 25-mcg and 100-mcg dose levels. The drugmaker added that all participants across the three dose levels seroconverted by day 15 after a single dose. Specifically, at day 43, two weeks following the second dose, at the 25-mcg dose level, levels of binding antibodies were at the levels seen in convalescent sera, while at the same timepoint in the 100-mcg cohort, levels of binding antibodies “significantly exceeded” that seen in convalescent sera.

Moderna added that neutralising antibody data are available for the first four participants in each of the 25-mcg and 100-mcg cohorts, with results showing that mRNA-1273 vaccination elicited neutralising antibodies in all eight of these participants. The levels of neutralising antibodies at day 43 were at or above levels generally seen in convalescent sera.

In addition, results showed that mRNA-1273 was generally safe and well tolerated, with Moderna noting that one person in the 100-mcg dose cohort experienced grade 3 erythema around the injection site.

Meanwhile, at the 250-mcg dose level, three participants developed grade 3 systemic symptoms following their second vaccination.

The Right Antigen
Chief medical officer Tal Zaks noted that while the data are early, they “demonstrate that vaccination with mRNA-1273 elicits an immune response of the magnitude caused by natural infection starting with a dose as low as 25 mcg.” Zaks remarked “I think the totality of science tells us that this is the right antigen and it should be protective,” adding there’s “a clear linear correlation between total binding antibodies and neutralizing.”

Roche Antibody Test for COVID-19 Goes Live at More Than 20 Initial Lab Sites in the US

Roche announced its Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody test is live at more than 20 commercial and hospital lab sites throughout the United States, with plans in the next several weeks to increase to more than 200 commercial and hospital lab sites with the ability to perform millions of tests per week.

The Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody test received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA earlier this month.

“Roche is proud to make this highly accurate serology test available in the U.S. to determine if a person has developed antibodies to COVID-19,” Matt Sause, President and CEO of Roche Diagnostics North America, said in a company news release. “Reliable, high-quality antibody testing is essential to help us overcome this pandemic and will play an important role in getting people back to work. We are proud to partner with LabCorp in making this test available in the U.S.”

The Roche antibody test is uniquely designed to identify mature (high affinity) antibodies developed late in the immune response, significantly reducing the chance of a false positive result. It provides 99.8 percent specificity, which is greater than previously available antibody tests. This specificity is crucial to determine reliably if a person has been exposed to the virus and has developed antibodies. Tests with lower specificity and sensitivity can lead to a high number of misidentified cases in a population. A false positive result may put a patient at risk by indicating they have antibodies when they do not.

New video game for the Visually Impaired

May 2020

A final-year student at the University of Abertay in Dundee has developed a video game that people who are blind and partially sighted can play.

Alasdair Marnoch (22) from the Isle of Lewis launched his new game, called 'FHear', at the university's digital graduate show on Friday [May 15th].

FHear, is a horror-themed game that is playable through audio alone. There is no need for sight to be able to play and enjoy it and experience everything it has to offer.

In FHear, the players finds themselves stranded in a dark forest and must use their hearing to identify the direction of a guide and escape the pursuit of a malevolent creature. The sense of fear and foreboding is heightened by the music, which grows more intense as the creature gets nearer.

“I grew up playing the violin and piano so I guess you could say that music has always been a passion of mine," says Alasdair, who has the sight loss condition nystagmus. "I’ve always enjoyed playing computer games and have loved learning about how sound and music are used within the computer games industry whilst at university.”

A student on the university's Sound and Music for Games degree course, Alasdair didn't initially seek to create a game that was playable by people with sight loss. It was only during development that he realised that he was creating something that was accessible to them.

"Students at Abertay have been working from home, which has made the research and development stages of my project more difficult than it should have been," he says. "On the other hand, it’s cut out many forms of distraction in my life and focus all my attention on developing FHear."

Now he is aiming for a career as an audio designer for a game development studio, a natural fit given his musical background and interest in games.

"I’m going to start reaching out to games development companies and sound designers and see if there’s any interest in the concept. It will also be a great way of showing prospective employees what I can do to do within, sound design, music and games development."

* People with sight loss experiencing difficulty during the current coronavirus situation can contact the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

Everyone in the United Kingdom with symptoms now eligible for coronavirus tests including all four Countries

May 2020

Anyone experiencing a new, continuous cough; high temperature; and now also a loss of or change in your normal sense of smell or taste can book a test by visiting

21,000 contact tracers in England now recruited.

You can offer your services as a registered clinician. Read our story here

The government has today announced that anyone with symptoms of coronavirus is now eligible to book a test, ahead of the rollout of the test and trace service.

The expansion in testing eligibility comes after all 4 UK Chief Medical Officers confirmed that anosmia has been added as a symptom of COVID-19. Anosmia is the loss of or a change in your normal sense of smell, and it can also affect your sense of taste.

This means people should self-isolate immediately if they have:

a new, continuous cough
a high temperature, or
a loss of or change in their normal sense of smell or taste

All members of their household must also self-isolate according to current guidelines, unless the symptomatic individual receives a negative test result.


The extension in testing eligibility comes ahead of the rollout of the new test and trace service and is possible thanks to increased testing capacity across the country as the government expands total testing capacity towards 200,000 tests a day.

The government has more than doubled the capacity of the NHS/Public Health England (PHE) laboratory network, set up 50 regional test centres and 116 mobile testing units, and introduced home testing kits and 3 Lighthouse laboratories.

The number of tests available for the general population will increase as capacity continues to expand.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: " Following the massive ramping up of our national testing programme, anybody with symptoms of coronavirus in the United Kingdom is now eligible for a test.
This is a huge step forward in our plan to slow the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and give the peace of mind these tests can bring.
We will continue to give priority to NHS staff and care home residents and workers in order to protect our most vulnerable."

The tracing element of the service in England, due to be launched shortly, will be supported by 21,000 contact tracers who have now been recruited, and will play a vital role working to reach those who have been in close contact with someone who has developed coronavirus.

The new workforce in England of more than 21,000 contract tracers will be overseen by experts from Public Health England and local government.
PHE Deputy Chief Executive Richard Gleave said: " Test and trace will require a huge team effort bringing together PHE and local government leaders, experts in logistics and thousands of new staff to carry out contact tracing. It’s great to see people from a wide range disciplines coming forward to play their part."

NHS Professionals’ CEO Nicola McQueen said:" We have seen a fantastic response to join the virtual frontline of home-based clinical contact caseworkers for the test and trace service. This service is key to the national response to COVID-19. We know that so many of our bank members, as well as other registered healthcare professionals, are keen to help in any way they can and this unique position will allow them to do just that."

First COVID-19 Vaccine Tested In the US Shows Promise in Data From Eight People

May 2020

{source Reuters}

Moderna Inc’s (MRNA.O) experimental COVID-19 vaccine, the first to be tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, according to very early data released by the biotech company on Monday.

The data comes from eight people who took part in a 45-subject safety trial that kicked off in March. The Moderna vaccine is one of more than 100 under development intended to protect against the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 4.7 million people globally and killed over 317,000.

Overall, the study showed the vaccine was safe and all study participants produced antibodies against the virus.

An analysis of the response in the eight individuals showed that those who received a 100 microgram dose and people who received a 25 microgram dose had levels of protective antibodies to fend of the virus that exceeded those found in the blood of people who recovered from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

The news, issued in a release by the U.S. biotechnology company, lifted shares of Moderna by 20%.

Moderna launched a $1.34 billion share offering at an offer price of $76 per share late Monday. The company had earlier said it plans to sell $1.25 billion in common stock to raise money for vaccine development and manufacturing.

“These are significant findings but it is a Phase 1 clinical trial that only included eight people. It was designed for safety, not for efficacy,” said Dr Amesh Adalja, in infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who was not involved in the study.

The very early data offers a glimmer of hope for a vaccine among the most advanced in development.

Scientists are trying to understand what level of antibodies will ultimately prove protective against the novel coronavirus, and how long that protection will last.

Moderna said the vaccine appeared to show a dose response, meaning that people who the 100 mcg dose produced more antibodies than people who got the lower dose.

The vaccine has gotten the green light to start the second stage of human testing. Last week, U.S. regulators gave the vaccine “fast-track” status to speed up the regulatory review.

In the Phase II, or midstage, trial designed to further test effectiveness and find the optimal dose, Moderna said it will drop plans to test a 250 mcg dose and test a 50 mcg dose instead.

Reducing the dose required to produce immunity could help spare the amount of vaccine required in each shot, meaning the company could ultimately produce more of the vaccine.

Ireland gets started for all services today.May 18th.

May 2020

Optometrists to re-open (Monday 18th) and encourage people with eye-care needs to attend in Ireland

Safety a priority as Optometrists to fully re-open their doors

Optometrists are re-opening their doors this Monday (May 18th) and have encouraged people with eye-care needs to go to their provider.

All services both urgent and non-urgent, including routine eye exams, will be available – however social distancing and patient safety measures will be followed.

AOI President Patricia Dunphy said the two major advices for the public are: “From Monday contact your Optometrist if you have eye-care needs – even if non-urgent. The recommended approach is to phone the Optometrist in advance to discuss your needs and to then make an appointment based on this.”

Adaptations under current safety requirements include:

• All clinically necessary tests are available but eye examinations will change to reduce contact time
• Management of numbers in the premises at one time (there is no set number as premises floor sizes vary, but the two metre principle will be followed)
• Contact with equipment minimised and sterilised after use
• Where close examinations are required, PPE will be used and recommended protocols followed
• Eye drops may be used to speed up eye exams and these patients are advised to not drive for a number of hours afterwards.

AOI is meeting with the Minister for Health Simon Harris this Monday (May 18th) to discuss the measures being taken and also what Optometrists can do to help alleviate even further increased eye-care waiting lists and demand. Prior to the Pandemic eye-care already had one of the largest healthcare waiting lists.

Patricia Dunphy said stretched GPs have increasingly been referring cases to Optometrists and the profession was available to help alleviate health system pressures as much as possible.

AOI added that the profession should be granted prescribing rights for antibiotic eye-drops to streamline services. “There are a number of conditions where an Optometrist completes an examination and makes a diagnosis, but must then refer the patient back to the GP for their prescription. This includes widely used topical antibiotics for conjunctivitis, blepharitis and removal of corneal foreign bodies. We are also now in the hay fever period of the year. Optometrists are already suitably qualified to fast-track this,” she said.

Following some media references to contact lenses this week, AOI reassured contact lens wearers that it is safe to continue contact lens wear at this time. As ever good hygiene is essential. If anyone has any queries they should contact their Optometrist.

In conclusion, AOI called for continued public cooperation and encouraged people to phone their local Optometrist in advance.

The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy published and updated 12 May 2020

May 2020

The 60 page document describes the current situation at the end of Phase 1 and the adjustments required at the beginning of Phase2.

Because the R rate differs in the 4 devolved countries, the information in this document is necessarily England Centric.

Read the whole document here

For eye care, (see Section 1.2) in phase two, the government plans to “continue to increase health and care capacity to ensure Covid-19 care for all Covid-19 patients while restoring ‘normal’ healthcare provision”.

A new UK Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) will be responsible for setting new Covid-19 Alert levels to communicate the level of risk to the public:

• Level 1: Covid-19 is not known to be present in the UK
• Level 2: Covid-19 is present in the UK, but the number of cases and transmission is low
• Level 3: Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation
• Level 4: Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially
• Level 5: As level 4 and there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed.

Within the document is a more precise list of measures people should take when outside:

Staying safe outside your home

This guidance sets out the principles you should follow to ensure that time spent with others outside your homes is as safe as possible (unless you are clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable in which case you should follow separate advice on GOV.UK. It is your responsibility to adopt these principles wherever possible. The Government is also using these principles as the basis of discussions with businesses, unions, local government and many other stakeholders to agree how they should apply in different settings to make them safer. All of us, as customers, visitors, employees or employers, need to make changes to lower the risk of transmission of the virus. The Government has consulted with its scientific advisers to establish the principles that will determine these changes.

Keep your distance from people outside your household, recognising this will not always be possible. The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with the virus and the amount of time you spend in close contact: you are very unlikely to be infected if you walk past another person in the street. Public Health England recommends trying to keep 2m away from people as a precaution. However, this is not a rule and the science is complex. The key thing is to not be too close to people for more than a short amount of time, as much as you can.

Keep your hands and face as clean as possible. Wash your hands often using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Use sanitiser where available outside your home, especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces. Avoid touching your face.

Work from home if you can. Many people can do most or all of their work from home, with the proper equipment and adjustments. Your employer should support you to find reasonable adjustments to do this. However, not all jobs can be done from home. If your workplace is open and you cannot work from home, you can travel to work.

Avoid being face to face with people if they are outside your household. You are at higher risk of being directly exposed to respiratory droplets released by someone talking or coughing when you are within 2m of someone and have face-to-face contact with them. You can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-to-side rather than facing people.

Reduce the number of people you spend time with in a work setting where you can. You can lower the risks of transmission in the workplace by reducing the number of people you come into contact with regularly, which your employer can support where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to match you with the same team each time and splitting people into smaller, contained teams.

Avoid crowds. You can lower the risks of transmission by reducing the number of people you come into close contact with, so avoid peak travel times on public transport where possible, for example. Businesses should take reasonable steps to avoid people being gathered together, for example by allowing the use of more entrances and exits and staggering entry and exit where possible. If you have to travel (to work or school, for example) think about how and when you travel. To reduce demand on the public transport network, you should walk or cycle wherever possible. If you have to use public transport, you should try and avoid peak times. Employers should consider staggering working hours and expanding bicycle storage facilities, changing facilities and car parking to help.

Wash your clothes regularly. There is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics for a few days, although usually it is shorter, so if you are working with people outside your household wash your clothes regularly. Changing clothes in workplaces should only normally be considered where there is a high risk of infection or there are highly vulnerable people, such as in a care home. If you need to change your clothes avoid crowding into a changing room.

Keep indoor places well ventilated. Evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated buildings and outdoors. In good weather, try to leave windows and doors open in places where people from different households come into contact – or move activity outdoors if you can. Use external extractor fans to keep spaces well ventilated and make sure that ventilation systems are set to maximise the fresh air flow rate. Heating and cooling systems can be used at their normal temperature settings.

If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example on public transport or in some shops. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough and/or high temperature) you and your household should isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this.

Covid Compliance A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers; these supplies should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards. Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 2 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary school age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions. It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

You can make face coverings at home; the key thing is it should cover your mouth and nose. You can find guidance on how to do this on GOV.UK.

You should follow the advice given to you by your employer when at work. Employers have a duty to assess and manage risks to your safety in the workplace. The Government has issued guidance to help them do this. This includes how to make adjustments to your workplace to help you maintain social distance. It also includes guidance on hygiene as evidence suggests that the virus can exist for up to 72 hours on surfaces. Frequent cleaning is therefore particularly important for communal surfaces like door handles or lift buttons and communal areas like bathrooms, kitchens and tea points. You can see the guidance on GOV.UK and can ask your employer if you have questions.

Where next:

FODO and other partners will be providing further guidance on the future of Optometry Services in Phase 2.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday evening, ABDO and the College of Optometrists confirm that the current clinical advice to deliver only essential/urgent/emergency eyecare remains in place, and optometrists should continue to utilise remote consultations to provide support to the public in the first instance. Routine sight tests remain suspended until further notice. We request that all practitioners continue to adhere to their relevant national government’s guidance on the provision of eyecare services.

The College of Optometrists is currently working with representatives from the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh governments, and NHS England to develop risk-stratified clinical guidance to support practitioners providing eye care during the recovery period. We are also working with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists to establish guidance for managing patients in primary and secondary care during the recovery phase, and beyond.

Things are moving fast with the Government already re-opening the Housing Market this morning (May 13th) . Given the importance of general eyecare in identifying eye disease and defects that could cause long term harm, it would seem logical to reopen optometry services as soon as possible.

Reviewing the Governments advice on Working Safely in Shops and branches is your first process and you can read this here.

Once your are satisfied with your compliance levels you should display the Compliance notice (left) available here

Government expands expert team to rapidly roll out coronavirus test and trace programme

May 2020

The government has announced the expansion of the expert team leading on the rapid nationwide roll-out of the coronavirus (COVID-19) test and trace programme.

The government has today appointed 2 new members to the team of experts working on the coronavirus test and trace programme

Tom Riordan and Sarah-Jane Marsh will join the programme which is being chaired by Baroness Dido Harding

The team will work to rapidly expand test and trace nationwide, backed by the successful scaling up of testing capacity across the country

The test and trace programme has been designed to minimise the spread of coronavirus, by identifying people who may have been in contact with the virus.

The programme is backed by increased testing capacity and a contact tracing app developed by NHSX, launched on the Isle of Wight earlier this month.

Today, further experts have been added to the team working on the programme’s nationwide roll out for later this month.

Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, will be leading on tracing alongside his existing role, and Sarah-Jane Marsh, Chief Executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, will be the lead on testing.

The experts will join the test and trace programme chair and Head of NHS Improvement, Baroness Dido Harding.

Both experts have been confirmed by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to further draw upon the best British expertise from across the country in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

Otley woman’s life saved following visit to local opticians

May 2020

A law student underwent potentially life and sight-saving surgery after an optometrist at Specsavers Otley detected signs of a serious condition.

Holly Briggs and Sara at Otley
While the store is currently only open for essential and urgent care during the Covid-19 pandemic, when 20-year-old Holly Briggs explained she had been experiencing blurriness and black shadows in her vision, optometrist Sara Saunders, scheduled for her to come in straightaway.

During a thorough eye examination, Specsavers’, detected abnormalities and immediately referred Miss Briggs to specialists at St James's Hospital with suspected swelling on her optic discs. Miss Briggs underwent a series of tests at the hospital, where she was diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) with a stage 4 papilledema.

Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) is a condition with an unknown cause or causes. The condition is associated with raised fluid pressure around the brain and it can cause disabling daily headaches and visual loss, which can be permanent and, in some cases, can be fatal. After a day of testing and being rushed to surgery just nine hours later, Miss Briggs had a lumbar puncture to relieve pressure around her brain.

Miss Briggs said: ‘I personally can’t thank Sara at Specsavers enough. I visited Specsavers Otley in April when I was having problems with my vision, but I thought I just needed a new prescription for my glasses. Sara immediately referred me to hospital.

'When I was told about the procedure I needed, I was calm, but also overwhelmed with everything that was happening. The operation saved my eyesight, and had I left it any longer before I went to the opticians, my eyesight would have been at great risk because of how high my brain pressure was. There are also complications with the condition that can cause death.

'My advice would be to never leave anything too late and ignore symptoms. If something doesn't feel right, just get it checked out. If I had waited any longer, I could be blind.'

Sara comments: ‘I'm really pleased to hear that treatment has gone well for Miss Briggs and the outcome has been extremely positive. The subsequent surgery was certainly life and sight-saving.

‘It goes to show just how important it is to have regular eye examinations. We recommend having your eyes tested at least every two years unless you have concerns about your sight, in which case it is advisable to book an appointment even sooner.’

Specsavers Otley is currently only open for essential and urgent services. The team, along with Specsavers' teams across the UK, are classed as key workers to provide urgent and essential eye care to those who need it. This includes supporting other key workers who couldn’t function without our help and people who would come to harm without our health expertise, especially where the usual hospital services and NHS facilities are being prioritised for the fight against COVID-19.

FDA Approves Quidel’s Sofia 2, First Antigen Test to Help in the Rapid Detection of COVID-19

May 2020

Quidel, which makes diagnostic tests for a variety of conditions including acute conjunctivitis and dry eye disease, announced that it has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA to market its Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA, a rapid point-of-care test for the detection of COVID-19.

Sofia 2 is the first antigen test approved by the FDA, a new category of tests for use in the ongoing pandemic. These diagnostic tests quickly detect fragments of proteins found on or within the virus by testing samples collected from the nasal cavity using swabs, according to the FDA.

“PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests can be incredibly accurate, but running the tests and analyzing the results can take time. One of the main advantages of an antigen test is the speed of the test, which can provide results in minutes,” according to an FDA news release. “However, antigen tests may not detect all active infections, as they do not work the same way as a PCR test. Antigen tests are very specific for the virus, but are not as sensitive as molecular PCR tests. This means that positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, but there is a higher chance of false negatives, so negative results do not rule out infection.
With this in mind, negative results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a PCR test prior to making treatment decisions or to prevent the possible spread of the virus due to a false negative.”

Antigen tests are also important in the overall response against COVID-19 as they can generally be produced at a lower cost than PCR tests, the FDA stated. Once multiple manufacturers enter the market, they can potentially scale to test millions of Americans per day due to their simpler design, helping our country better identify infection rates closer to real time.

The Sofia 2 instrument offers 2 workflows depending upon the user’s choice: the Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA cartridge is placed inside Sofia 2 for automatically timed development (WALK AWAY Mode); or test cartridges can be placed on the counter or bench top for a manually timed development and then placed into Sofia 2 to be scanned (READ NOW Mode), allowing the user to markedly increase testing throughput per hour, according to Quidel.

“In the fight against COVID-19, our employees are truly making a difference, and I am tremendously proud of our organization’s ability to quickly develop and mobilize an accurate rapid antigen test,” Douglas Bryant, president and chief executive officer of Quidel, said in the news release. “The EUA for our Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA allows us to arm our health care workers and first responders with a frontline solution for COVID-19 diagnosis, accelerating the time to diagnosis and potential treatment of COVID- 19 for the patient.”

Sofia 2, which is used with the Sofia 2 Fluorescent Immunoassay Analyzer, utilizes the original Sofia fluorescent chemistry design while improving upon the graphical user interface and optics system to provide an accurate, objective and automated result in 15 minutes, according to a company news release. The Sofia 2 system also comes connected to Virena, Quidel’s data management system, which provides aggregated, de-identified testing data in near real-time.

The assay is currently available for sale in the United States under EUA, and Quidel is now shipping the product to its customers. Quidel offers several other Sofia assays for sale, which are FDA cleared and CLIA waived, including tests for Influenza A and B, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Group A Strep, and a 12-minute finger-stick whole blood test for Lyme Disease. In addition, Quidel also markets Sofia tests for Lyme Disease, Legionella, and S. pneumoniae in Europe.

Health care professionals can purchase the Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA through distribution representatives for Cardinal Health, Fisher Healthcare, Henry Schein, or McKesson.

Complete transcript of PM's Speech to the nation last night.

May 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
It is now almost two months since the people of this country began to put up with restrictions on their freedom – your freedom – of a kind that we have never seen before in peace or war.
And you have shown the good sense to support those rules overwhelmingly.
You have put up with all the hardships of that programme of social distancing.
Because you understand that as things stand, and as the experience of every other country has shown, it’s the only way to defeat the coronavirus - the most vicious threat this country has faced in my lifetime.
And though the death toll has been tragic, and the suffering immense.
And though we grieve for all those we have lost.

It is a fact that by adopting those measures we prevented this country from being engulfed by what could have been a catastrophe in which the reasonable worst case scenario was half a million fatalities.
And it is thanks to your effort and sacrifice in stopping the spread of this disease that the death rate is coming down and hospital admissions are coming down.
And thanks to you we have protected our NHS and saved many thousands of lives.
And so I know - you know - that it would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike.
We must stay alert.

We must continue to control the virus and save lives.
And yet we must also recognise that this campaign against the virus has come at colossal cost to our way of life.
We can see it all around us in the shuttered shops and abandoned businesses and darkened pubs and restaurants.
And there are millions of people who are both fearful of this terrible disease, and at the same time also fearful of what this long period of enforced inactivity will do to their livelihoods and their mental and physical wellbeing.

To their futures and the futures of their children.

So I want to provide tonight - for you - the shape of a plan to address both fears.
Both to beat the virus and provide the first sketch of a road map for reopening society.
A sense of the way ahead, and when and how and on what basis we will take the decisions to proceed.
I will be setting out more details in Parliament tomorrow and taking questions from the public in the evening.
I have consulted across the political spectrum, across all four nations of the UK.
And though different parts of the country are experiencing the pandemic at different rates.

And though it is right to be flexible in our response.

I believe that as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, there is a strong resolve to defeat this together.
And today a general consensus on what we could do.
And I stress could.

Because although we have a plan, it is a conditional plan.

And since our priority is to protect the public and save lives, we cannot move forward unless we satisfy the five tests.
We must protect our NHS.
We must see sustained falls in the death rate.
We must see sustained and considerable falls in the rate of infection.
We must sort out our challenges in getting enough PPE to the people who need it, and yes, it is a global problem but we must fix it.
And last, we must make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease - the R - back up over one, so that we have the kind of exponential growth we were facing a few weeks ago.

And to chart our progress and to avoid going back to square one, we are establishing a new Covid Alert System run by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre.
And that Covid Alert Level will be determined primarily by R and the number of coronavirus cases.
And in turn that Covid Alert Level will tell us how tough we have to be in our social distancing measures – the lower the level the fewer the measures.
The higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be.
There will be five alert levels.

Level One means the disease is no longer present in the UK and Level Five is the most critical – the kind of situation we could have had if the NHS had been overwhelmed.
Over the period of the lockdown we have been in Level Four, and it is thanks to your sacrifice we are now in a position to begin to move in steps to Level Three.
And as we go everyone will have a role to play in keeping the R down.
By staying alert and following the rules.

And to keep pushing the number of infections down there are two more things we must do.

We must reverse rapidly the awful epidemics in care homes and in the NHS, and though the numbers are coming down sharply now, there is plainly much more to be done.
And if we are to control this virus, then we must have a world-beating system for testing potential victims, and for tracing their contacts.

So that – all told - we are testing literally hundreds of thousands of people every day.
We have made fast progress on testing – but there is so much more to do now, and we can.
When this began, we hadn’t seen this disease before, and we didn’t fully understand its effects.
With every day we are getting more and more data.
We are shining the light of science on this invisible killer, and we will pick it up where it strikes.
Because our new system will be able in time to detect local flare-ups – in your area – as well as giving us a national picture.

And yet when I look at where we are tonight, we have the R below one, between 0.5 and 0.9 – but potentially only just below one.
And though we have made progress in satisfying at least some of the conditions I have given.
We have by no means fulfilled all of them.

And so no, this is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week.
Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures.
And the first step is a change of emphasis that we hope that people will act on this week.
We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must.

We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.

And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.
So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home.
And to ensure you are safe at work we have been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure.
And when you do go to work, if possible do so by car or even better by walking or bicycle. But just as with workplaces, public transport operators will also be following COVID-secure standards.

And from this Wednesday, we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise.

You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.

You must obey the rules on social distancing and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.

And so every day, with ever increasing data, we will be monitoring the R and the number of new infections, and the progress we are making, and if we as a nation begin to fulfil the conditions I have set out, then in the next few weeks and months we may be able to go further.

In step two – at the earliest by June 1 – after half term – we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays. And we will shortly be setting out detailed guidance on how to make it work in schools and shops and on transport.
And step three - at the earliest by July - and subject to all these conditions and further scientific advice; if and only if the numbers support it, we will hope to re-open at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing.
Throughout this period of the next two months we will be driven not by mere hope or economic necessity. We are going to be driven by the science, the data and public health.
And I must stress again that all of this is conditional, it all depends on a series of big Ifs. It depends on all of us – the entire country – to follow the advice, to observe social distancing, and to keep that R down.
And to prevent re-infection from abroad, I am serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.
And it is because of your efforts to get the R down and the number of infections down here, that this measure will now be effective.
And of course we will be monitoring our progress locally, regionally, and nationally and if there are outbreaks, if there are problems, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes.
We have been through the initial peak – but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous.
We have a route, and we have a plan, and everyone in government has the all-consuming pressure and challenge to save lives, restore livelihoods and gradually restore the freedoms that we need.
But in the end this is a plan that everyone must make work.
And when I look at what you have done already.
The patience and common sense you have shown.
The fortitude of the elderly whose isolation we all want to end as fast as we can.
The incredible bravery and hard work of our NHS staff, our care workers.
The devotion and self-sacrifice of all those in every walk of life who are helping us to beat this disease.
Police, bus drivers, train drivers, pharmacists, supermarket workers, road hauliers, bin collectors, cleaners, security guards, postal workers, our teachers and a thousand more.
The scientists who are working round the clock to find a vaccine.
When I think of the millions of everyday acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that are being performed across this country.
And that have helped to get us through this first phase.
I know that we can use this plan to get us through the next.
And if we can’t do it by those dates, and if the alert level won’t allow it, we will simply wait and go on until we have got it right.
We will come back from this devilish illness.
We will come back to health, and robust health.
And though the UK will be changed by this experience, I believe we can be stronger and better than ever before. More resilient, more innovative, more economically dynamic, but also more generous and more sharing.
But for now we must stay alert, control the virus and save lives.
Thank you very much."

New measures require face masks for shops and public transport. Plus new portal for Care Homes launched (May 12th) See regular Updates on PHN dedicated Covid-19 Page here

Seems to take a pandemic of Covid proportions to hear Government recognise Optometry and eyecare services as part of primary care services

May 2020

On the 6th of May during the daily Covid-19 Downing Street briefing Dr Nikki Kanani MBE, Medical Director of Primary Care for NHSEI, joined Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick in the briefing room where he (Dr Kanani) reassured everybody living in England that primary care services were still there for them and paid “tribute to our GPs, our GP practice teams, our dentists, our optometrists, the unsung heroes the community pharmacists on the high street”.

Mr Jenrick, supporting Dr Nikki’s briefing, said he also wanted to thank everybody who’s working in primary care across the country

The truth about Community Antibody testing in the USA, where are they at this stage

May 2020

Contrary to earlier news that antibody tests for home use had been sanctioned by the FDA in the USA the FDA has released an updated statement from its March 16th position.

Tto help mitigate the trade-off of helping to ensure early availability and having time to obtain a good understanding of test performance, the FDA’s March 16 policy was intended to limit antibody testing to laboratories certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to perform testing in high-complexity and point-of-care settings when covered by such certificates – that is, labs with special clinical and technical expertise – as long as the tests were properly validated and labeled as outlined in our policy, and the developer notified the FDA. Under CLIA, only those laboratories are permitted to perform tests that have not been FDA authorized

In mid-March, it was critical for the FDA to provide regulatory flexibility for serology test developers, given the nature of this public health emergency and an understanding that the tests were not to be used as the sole basis for COVID-19 diagnosis, a fact that remains true today. However, flexibility never meant we would allow fraud. We unfortunately see unscrupulous actors marketing fraudulent test kits and using the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of Americans’ anxiety. Some test developers have falsely claimed their serological tests are FDA approved or authorized. Others have falsely claimed that their tests can diagnose COVID-19 or that they are for at-home testing, which would fall outside of the policies outlined in our March 16 guidance, as well as the updated guidance.

When we become aware of these issues, we have and will continue to take appropriate action against firms unlawfully marketing their tests, for example, by detaining and refusing illegitimate test kits at the border.

It is important that those who use an antibody test need to understand its limitations and use test results as just one piece of data to inform decision making.

All tests can provide at least some false results. Even a high-performing antibody test when used on individuals in a population that does not have many cases of COVID-19 infection – a population with low prevalence – may produce as many or more false results as true results because the likelihood of finding someone who has been infected is very small. This doesn’t mean the test is bad, but rather recognizes the inherent limitations of these kinds of tests. Therefore, it may be necessary for some individuals to have two serology tests performed to generate reliable results.

The FDA has now issued guidelines and produced a methodolgy for recognised clinical research teams to follow and to submit any new tests that might work in a community setting and after prompt evaluation may be allowed to be entered into the market.
But for now there is no sanctioned home antibody test so snactioned.

You can read the full FDA statement here

Are “Green Shoots” as predicted on Opchat News beginning to surface?

May 2020

At the end of this week we will start to see Governments thinking on ending the lockdown on non-essential businesses and offices and this will include the need to stagger staff in large offices and re-arrange the methodology of dealing with distance measures.

OCT Shield form Heidelberg
A lot can be learnt from local stores and supermarkets on the range of measures they have taken.

Staggered entry and queued waiting for customers, detailed area for customer flow by floor markings, one-way passage through premises as well as heightened cleanliness and safeguarding from breath for staff and customers alike. All to assist safe distancing.
This is the time as we have suggested before on our pages for practice owners and managers to make a detailed assessment of what is needed.

Whether it be floor tape and disposable gloves for both customers and staff, breath screens at reception desks, the temporary repositioning of desks by the entrance to indicate to waiting customers when it is safe to enter or the provision of testing equipment and the hygiene tissues and breath screens required.
(Heidelberg Shield for OCTs left)

You may also wish to consider remote testing via teleoptics to patients and dedicated frame reordering for emergency breakages.

Perspex screening by Grafton

Whatever you need it is important to have it ready at the get-go.

This will include professional looking signs in the window to assist customers and patients with telephone numbers or what’s app ability for them to communicate, even if they are outside.

It is very obvious that both business staff and patients alike will feel wary at first, but with encouragement life in Optics will return back to near normal.

Grafton Universal Breath Shield There appears to be no reason why optometry and dispensing with staggered workflows will not be allowed. We also know that the promise of new specs, contact lenses or sunglasses will attract patient footfall which in turn will reduce the numbers of missed early diagnosis of eye disease that must be occurring.

(above Perspex Screeniing for Counters by Grafton)

The Optical Industry has played a significant part in assisting Optometry and Dispensing to continue during lockdown with over 100 companies open for business and listed in our companies open list.

We are seeing a growing interest in our product service e-Blasts which by the way we thank you for accepting and reading as the small amount of income form these has kept us going during the pandemic.

PHN has announced reduced rates for its e-blast product service during the Covid Lockdown as well as staggered payment terms for new sponsors who want to get involved and support our free professional independent news resource to the Optical Sector.

So, "thinking hats" on and review the product news we have featured in the last 4 weeks on breath screens for reception and equipment, for OCTs and where to get PPE.

Remember also that finance is still available from finance brokers that we have talked to with long date staggered repayments (Snowbird, one of our sponsors and Braemar). So minor refurbs and updating equipment are a possibility building towards the “Start Up”.
Universal Breath Shields from Grafton Right)
ED: We wish you well and stay safe within next week’s guidelines.

Specsavers Optometrists urge DIY caution after seeing increase in lockdown eye injuries

May 2020

Optometrists are urging DIY enthusiasts to take extra care to avoid eye injuries as home improvement projects prove popular during lockdown.

DIY Eye Injuries report from SpecsaversAn estimated 200,000 eye injuries are caused by DIY mishaps every year and Specsavers opticians throughout the UK have treated patients for an array of incidents in the last few weeks – from foreign objects to chemical burns.

Specsavers Clinical Services Director, Giles Edmonds, says: ‘We often see a spike in these types of accidents in springtime, so as lockdown-DIY becomes popular it’s no surprise to see a number of patients contacting us with these types of injuries. Indeed some stores have reported treating up to three DIY-eye injuries in a single day.

In Farnham, Surrey, optometrist director Lateef Iqbal has seen lots of DIY-related eye conditions lately. He says: ‘We certainly have been busy removing many foreign objects from people's eyes and prescribing eye drops for irritation that has been exacerbated by the pollen count with gardeners'.

Optometrist Joanna Duncan in nearby Alton says: ‘We recently helped a customer in her 70s who had something in her eye following a stint of gardening. She was able to come in to see us to have a foreign object removed from her cornea. We prescribed antibiotic eye drops to prevent any related infection and followed up after a few days with a phone call to check she was well. She told us that she is very grateful that we were open to help. For me, the important point is that we were able to keep one person away from our busy local A&E department which is paramount in these challenging times.’

Similarly, in Edinburgh Graeme Kay, 58, visited Specsavers Morningside store following a gardening mishap that resulted in a chemical burn to his right eye. The recent retiree was cleaning his patio when chemical fluid sprayed into his eye. His concern grew over the next 36 hours as he developed painful swelling and bleeding, and following a trip to a nearby pharmacy, Graeme was encouraged to visit his local Specsavers store for emergency help.

Michael O’Kane, clinical director in Specsavers Morningside, described the quick action that was taken to help Graeme. He says: ‘Graeme’s eye looked extremely angry and following an emergency consultation it was clear he was suffering from periorbital oedema, chemosis and a significant subconjunctival haemorrhage. We irrigated his eye and I swabbed it to remove any foreign bodies from under the lids. I then prescribed him antibiotic ointment and drops to help wash out the eye, treat, and ease friction on it so it can heal at home.

‘We were able to quickly and effectively diagnose and treat Graeme in store. Had it been a more serious injury involving the cornea, we would have referred him directly to the eye hospital. By treating emergency cases like this in high street stores, and through telephone/video consultations, we are helping to take pressure off the NHS at this extremely challenging time. I encourage people to contact their optometrist first for any eye condition rather than their GP or A&E.’

Giles Edmonds' advice to consumers is: ‘It is important that you are cautious and pay close attention when you are carrying out any activity which might lead to something going into the eye, such as pruning in the garden, drilling or grinding and that suitable eye protection is worn. In the event that an injury occurs, call your local Specsavers store where an optometrist will be able to discuss the best course of action with you.’

While Specsavers stores, in line with government guidelines, have suspended routine testing for the foreseeable future, emergency and essential eye care is still available to those in need – including frontline staff and key workers.

Below Mr Edmonds provides advice on DIY danger areas and advice on the action you should take if you do have an eye injury – but stresses prevention is better than cure and says suitable eye protection is the real solution.

Restart plan expected this week and RCOO starts making plans for ophthalmology

May 2020

Could this be the beginning of a phased comeback? If so we need to start preparing with practice designs and appropriate PPE and Instrumentation.

The government plans to publish ‘post-lockdown workplace’ rules this week according to the BBC. The expectation is that around 10 papers will be published between Thursday and Sunday this week, with more detail on 10 May.

The papers are expected to include details on how businesses across a range of different environments can re-open and work safely. The categories include outdoor work, leisure and wellbeing, non-food retail, factory and industry-based work, and distribution and logistics.

FODO has informed us that it has proposed to government that eye and hearing care providers should continue to be supported throughout the crisis. For example, we called for flexible furlough arrangements to continue as many of our core patients will remain self-isolating, being shielded or caught up in the care home epidemic far beyond any easing of lockdown restrictions.

Practices must start planning the impacts of changing social distancing from 2m to 1m and introducing time variables and changing PPE requirements in primary care to achieve the best possible release from lockdown for patients, the public, staff and the range of eye care providers that make this possible.

However, at this stage, while there is no new government advice, members should continue to follow College of Optometrists guidance. Also be aware of the availability in the newly opened LOCSU/PES shop.

Read our story on how members of the AAO in USA are considering the future of practice here.

How Ophthalmology in the UK is considering a ‘restart’ plan

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists updated its Covid-19 resources on 2 May, including ‘Reopening and redeveloping ophthalmology services during Covid-19 recovery – Interim guidance’.

The RCOO acknowledges that ophthalmology had capacity challenges before lockdown and that, although most ophthalmology departments have kept an emergency service going, the Covid-19 restrictions have led to concerns among both ophthalmologists and patients about delays and sight loss. The College supports a safe restart as soon as possible to minimise avoidable sight loss.

It also recognised that the pandemic had “accelerated development of innovative ways of providing care remotely on which services can build to improve capacity problems for the future”. It highlights the need to work more closely with optical practices and flags the possibility of using optical practice facilities for some outpatient care.

These are early green shoots that may help the sector collectively meet both the backlog of and growing levels of eye health need in more efficient ways post-crisis.

Unsurprisingly, the College of Optometrists has welcomed the guidance on behalf of optometry and is working with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists “to develop UK-wide clinical management principles and pathways for the recovery period”.

In an interview with the BBC :Bhavin Shah a registered optometrist at Central Vision Opticians is planning to do part of his consultations by phone and use new digital imaging equipment so examinations can be performed at distance.

The company is going to space out appointment times to give them opportunity to disinfect surfaces, equipment and spectacle frames that have been touched by customers.

Nonetheless he says "I believe it will take at least a year to start to become even close to some normality and another year to rebuild the thriving business that we used to have just one month ago."
He is also worried about when - and if - customers will decide to come back.

"So far, if we can keep at least half of our normal customers coming through, we'll be able to manage our cash flow. If there is a second wave of infections in the country and a new lockdown, I'll have to hope that another round of government grants would carry us through."

Read our story on considerations and tipe on restarting here

Coronavirus test, track and trace plan launched on Isle of Wight

May 2020

Isle of Wight residents will be the first to get access to a new contact tracing app as part of government action to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

Isle of Wight announced as first phase of new ‘test, track and trace’ programme

Rollout of NHS COVID-19 App to begin with the island’s NHS and council staff tomorrow, with all island residents to get access from Thursday

Data privacy and security paramount, with National Cyber Security Centre involved in app development

The app will be complemented by enhanced contact tracing using existing methods online and over the phone

Isle of Wight residents will be the first to be offered access to a new contact tracing app, as part of government action to test, track and trace to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and move towards safely reducing lockdown measures.

Everyone on the island will receive access to the official NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app from this Thursday, with NHS and council staff able to download from 4pm tomorrow, Tuesday 5 May.

Part of a new test, track and trace programme, the app will work together with enhanced contact tracing services and swab testing for those with potential COVID-19 symptoms to help minimise the spread of COVID-19.

Developed by NHSX, the technology arm of the health service, and a team of world-leading scientists and doctors, the app is designed to significantly speed up contact tracing, helping reduce the chance of the virus spreading by enabling us to rapidly identify people most at risk of infection so they can take action to protect themselves, the people they care about and the NHS.

When someone reports symptoms through the app, it will detect any other app users that the person has been in significant contact with over the past few days, including unknown contacts such as someone they may have sat next to on public transport. The app will be able to anonymously alert these contacts and provide advice, including how to get a test to confirm whether or not they do have COVID-19. Users will be able order tests through the app shortly.

For those who may not have access to the app, or the ability to use a smartphone, there will be an option to report symptoms and order tests in other ways. As the integrated service develops, everyone who reports symptoms, including app users, will also be asked to record recent contacts using an online service (or through a telephone interview if they prefer), so that contact tracers can reach all contacts who may be at risk, whether or not those contacts are app users. Contacts will then be alerted either by the app or by email or telephone, advising them to self-isolate or offering public health advice.

As the test, track and trace programme rolls out nationally, expected in mid-May, Public Health England will oversee the deployment of 18,000 additional contact tracers to support the programme.

Read the full story on our Covid-19 page updated daily with infection rates after release by Gov.UK

American Academy of Ophthalmology Releases COVID-19 Survey on its effects on Ophthalmology Practices and their patients

May 2020

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) released the initial findings of a series of COVID-19 pulse surveys, which aim to reveal the pandemic’s effect on ophthalmology practices and their patients. The pulse surveys will be used to advocate for additional relief and to develop resources to help members and their practices survive in a post-COVID world.

The first survey focused on private practices. Surveyed practices are adhering to public health and the Academy’s recommendation for only providing urgent and emergent care: 95% of the practices are seeing 25% or less of their pre-COVID patient volume, and 81% are seeing 10% or less of their pre-COVID surgical volume, according to the survey results.

Members believe that the majority of their pre-COVID patient volume will not be billable as telemedicine services: 37% indicated none of their patient volume can be handled through telemedicine and be billable; and 61% indicated 10% or less of their patient volume can be converted to telemedicine and be billable.

Practices anticipate being closed 3 to 5 months and have concerns about when and how they will be able to resume patient care.

They are taking advantage of available resources, including through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, with 89% applying for payroll protection.

A concerning result from the survey is that a majority of members project that without substantive federal grants and loans that their practices will be smaller, financially unhealthy or both by the end of the year.

Poll Findings

47% will be smaller and financially unhealthy

26% will return to pre-COVID size and volume, but financially unhealthy

14% will be smaller, but financially healthy

6% will no longer practice ophthalmology

2% of practices will be sold

Only 6% believe that they will be back to pre-COVID size, volume and financial health.

The Academy is fighting for additional financial relief from the government and drug companies and developing resources to support practices through this pandemic.

To conduct the study, the Academy surveyed a randomized sample of 2,500 members in private practice from April 9 -13, 2020. The response rate was 16%, and results have a confidence interval of 95% +/-4% margin of error.

Ophthalmologists: Optimistic About Opening Soon, But Worried About State of Practices

Practices are more optimistic about opening sooner, but more concerned about the size of their practices and their financial state when they do reopen, according to responses to the Academy’s second COVID-19 member pulse survey.

In a survey conducted April 23-27, of more than a third of respondents (39%) said:

they expect their practices to reopen in May.

When asked that question two weeks earlier,

only 25% were that optimistic.

The Academy already has been publishing resources to help members navigate the reopening process.

A recent Commonwealth Fund report showed ophthalmology to be the practice hardest hit in terms of decline in outpatient visits during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why federal relief is so important to your practices, why you’re concerned about the adequacy of that aid and why Academy staff is pushing lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to provide you enough relief that you can provide the quality care that your patients expect and deserve:

Two weeks ago, 61% of Academy pulse survey respondents said that in the absence of substantive federal grants or loans, their practices would return smaller than they were before. Now, 78% of respondents tell us their practices will be smaller if they don’t get enough support. However, fewer respondents now predict they will no longer practice ophthalmology.

The Academy surveyed a randomized sample of 2,500 members in private practice from April 23-27, 2020. The response rate was 15%, and results have a confidence interval of 95% +/-5% margin of error.

Optometrists warning over contact lens give away

May 2020

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has raised serious concerns over a promotion from Vision Direct offering to give away 4000 packs of disposable contact lenses to NHS and key workers.

The AOP is condemning the online retailer’s latest marketing ploy, which has been pitched as “making personal protective equipment (PPE) easier and more comfortable to use” as irresponsible and dangerous – as well as being out of line with UK law that protects customers’ eye health.

Thousands of frontline workers are likely to access the lenses without realising that by doing so they risk their eye health, and in extreme cases their sight.

Optometrist and Head of Clinical and Regulatory at the AOP, Henry Leonard said: “We all want to support NHS workers during the coronavirus pandemic, but supplying contact lenses to key workers who may never have worn them before, without ensuring the lenses fit properly and provide clear vision, or even checking whether they can insert and remove their lenses safely, is extremely irresponsible. Contact lenses are medical devices which can cause permanent harm when used incorrectly, which is why UK law says they must be fitted by, and supplied under the general direction of, a registered professional.

“Since this promotion is aimed at NHS staff and key workers, it has the potential to impact the UK’s health infrastructure in the middle of a pandemic – something we obviously want to avoid at all costs.” Mr Leonard added.

Under the current UK rules, contact lenses must be fitted by a registered professional before they can be supplied, and the supply itself must also be overseen by an eye care professional, a safety measure in place to protect the public. However, many companies that target UK consumers, such as Vision Direct, are registered overseas and do not necessarily follow UK law. The AOP is calling on the General Optical Council (GOC), which is the regulator for optics in the UK, to do more to protect patients from websites that target UK customers but don’t follow the UK rules on patient safety.

FDA Authorises First Test for Patient At-Home Sample Collection

April 2020

News from accross the pond

The FDA has authorised the first diagnostic test with a home collection option for COVID-19. LabCorp’s COVID-19 RT-PCR test allows testing of samples self-collected by patients at home using the company’s Pixel COVID-19 home collection kit.

“Throughout this pandemic we have been facilitating test development to ensure patients access to accurate diagnostics, which includes supporting the development of reliable and accurate at-home sample collection options,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, said in an FDA news release. “The FDA’s around-the-clock work since this outbreak began has resulted in the authorization of more than 50 diagnostic tests and engagement with over 350 test developers. Specifically, for tests that include home sample collection, we worked with LabCorp to ensure the data demonstrated from at-home patient sample collection is as safe and accurate as sample collection at a doctor’s office, hospital or other testing site. With this action, there is now a convenient and reliable option for patient sample collection from the comfort and safety of their home.”

This reissued emergency use authorization (EUA) for LabCorp’s molecular test permits testing of a sample collected from the patient’s nose using a designated self-collection kit that contains nasal swabs and saline.

Once patients self-swab to collect their nasal sample, they mail their sample, in an insulated package, to a LabCorp lab for testing. LabCorp intends to make the Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test home collection kits available to consumers in most states, with a doctor’s order, in the coming weeks.

The LabCorp home self-collection kit includes a specific Q-tip-style cotton swab for patients to use to collect their sample. Due to concerns with sterility and cross-reactivity due to inherent genetic material in cotton swabs, other cotton swabs should not be used with this test at the present time. The FDA continues to work with test developers to determine whether or not Q-tip-style cotton swab can be used safely and effectively with other tests.

This authorization only applies to the LabCorp COVID-19 RT-PCR Test for at-home collection of nasal swab specimens using the Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 home collection kit. It is important to note that this is not a general authorization for at-home collection of patient samples using other collection swabs, media, or tests, or for tests fully conducted at home.

NovaBay Pharmaceuticals Signs Agreement to Distribute COVID-19 Antibody Rapid Point-of-Care Test to US Health Care Professionals

April 2020

The news that on the spot testing by health care professionals is to be made available is announced by Eyewire NovaBay Pharmaceuticals this week.

It announced an agreement with Shenzhen Microprofit Biotech to become the exclusive US distributor of a rapid, finger prick test to determine the presence of COVID-19 or a potential indication of antibody immunity to COVID-19, according to a company news release. The fluorecare SARS-CoV-2 IgG & IgM Antibody Combined (colloidal gold chromatographic immunoassay) Test Kit is a point-of-care test to be administered by health care professionals. The test uses a drop of blood for the detection of COVID-19 antibodies with results available in approximately 10 minutes.

The fluorecare test kit has been validated through widely used RT-PCR testing to detect immunoglobulin M (IgM), which is the first antibody produced in response to initial exposure to the COVID-19 antigen, and immunoglobulin G (IgG), which provides a potential indication of antibody-based immunity to COVID-19. The fluorecare test kit has been ISO 13485 and CE Mark certified.

“Public health experts and leaders across our country are citing a critical need for mass testing and tracing procedures for those who are infected or have been infected with COVID-19 before reopening the nation’s economy,” Justin Hall, NovaBay CEO, said in a company news release. “Nasopharyngeal (back of the nose and throat) swabs for molecular detection are expensive and require laboratory testing that can lead to delays in obtaining results. Through a simple finger prick, IgG/IgM testing could provide for cost-effective detection of COVID-19 antibodies with results available in minutes as an important step in tracking the infection.

“We are delighted once again to work with our global health supplier network to secure a product that can help our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and, subject to FDA clearance, we plan to offer the fluorecare test kit at very competitive pricing,” he added.

Eyewire News is part of Bryn Mawr Vision Group.USA.

ED.: This is precisely the sort of on the spot testing that would be suitable for our community care facilities, run by healthcare professionals with better recording ability than most others. It seems we are running along different streams of thought in the UK for community testing, compared to most other countries. Perhaps if NHS England is unimpressed some of our larger optical companies could pull together and provide it privately

Olympics chief brought in to boost PPE production

April 2020

Lord Deighton will lead the national effort to produce essential personal protective equipment for frontline health and social care staff.

Paul Deighton, London 2012 Chief Exec, has been appointed by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to lead the national effort to produce essential personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health and social care staff.

He will coordinate the end-to-end process of design through to manufacture, including streamlining the approvals and procurement process to ensure new domestic PPE supplies are rapidly approved and get to where they are needed. The “make” programme will start to deliver PPE supplies in the next week.

He will also support the scaling up of engineering efforts for smaller companies capable of contributing to the wider supply chain.

Lord Deighton previously served as Chief Executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), the organisation responsible for planning and delivering the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. He also served as Commercial Secretary to HM Treasury from January 2013 to May 2015.

As part of the comprehensive UK-wide plan to ensure PPE gets to where it is needed most, unveiled by Matt Hancock earlier this month, Deighton will lead the “make” programme to unleash the potential of UK industry to scale up domestic PPE manufacturing.

4D pharma announces expedited UK regulatory acceptance to commence Phase II study in COVID-19

April 2020

4D pharma plc (AIM: DDDD), a pharmaceutical company leading the development of Live Biotherapeutics, today announces that it has received expedited acceptance from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to commence a Phase II study of MRx-4DP0004 in patients with COVID-19.

“As the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has developed and the UK has emerged as one of the worst affected areas, 4D pharma has worked intensively with our clinical collaborators and regulatory agencies to bring an urgently needed potential therapy to patients as rapidly as possible” said Alex Stevenson, Chief Scientific Officer, 4D pharma. “If, as we believe, MRx-4DP0004 is successful in this study it would represent a highly significant breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.”

Current evidence suggests a reason for the high mortality rate of COVID-19 may be due to the hyper-inflammatory response and cytokine storm syndrome caused by uncontrolled activation of the immune system.

There is an urgent need for a safe and effective therapy to prevent and treat the severe inflammatory symptoms of COVID-19, to alleviate the significant burden on hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs). Targeted immunomodulation may be beneficial in these patients.

4D pharma’s Live Biotherapeutic MRx-4DP0004 is the first immunomodulatory therapy being tested in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 which has shown the potential to simultaneously down-regulate specific pathological aspects of the hyper-inflammatory response while maintaining the appropriate anti-viral response. As MRx-4DP0004 is not broadly immunosuppressive, it does not carry the inherent side-effects associated with immunosuppressants currently under investigation, such as increased risk of infections or cancer, that may preclude their use earlier in more mild-to-moderate patients, which is crucial to reducing the burden on health systems.

MRx-4DP0004 is an orally administered, single-strain Live Biotherapeutic product (LBP) currently in a Phase I/II clinical trial for the treatment of patients with partly-controlled asthma. 4D pharma has previously shown that MRx-4DP0004 is able to significantly reduce lung inflammation and impact particular immune cell types and pathways implicated in the hyperinflammatory response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

MRx-4DP0004 has a highly attractive safety profile with no drug-related adverse safety signals observed in preclinical studies or in patients dosed to date. As such, 4D pharma believes MRx-4DP0004 may be safely administered to patients hospitalised with COVID-19 symptoms to prevent or reduce the onset of severe inflammation.

The COVID-19 Phase II study of MRx-4DP0004 will be a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. It will evaluate the efficacy and safety of MRx-4DP0004 in addition to standard-of-care in up to 90 patients hospitalised with symptoms indicative of COVID-19. Eligible participants will be randomised 2:1 to receive 14 days of treatment with either MRx-4DP0004 or placebo (two capsules twice daily).

Participants will be monitored daily throughout the treatment period for improvement or progression of COVID-19 symptoms and adverse events. Following completion of the treatment period, participants will be followed-up at approximately 14 and 28 days post treatment.

The primary endpoint of the trial will be the mean change in clinical status score as measured by the WHO Ordinal Scale for Clinical Improvement. Secondary endpoints include safety and tolerability as well as a suite of additional measures of clinical efficacy including the need for and duration of ventilation.

The study’s Lead Investigator, Dr. Dinesh Saralaya, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Associate Director of Research at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Clinical Lead for Respiratory industry studies, commented, “The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to our healthcare systems and we desperately require the rapid development of new therapies to ease the burden on our intensive care units. Given the scale and urgency of the situation it is vitally important that we generate evidence to support the use of new candidates as quickly as possible, before these can be rolled out to patients who need them. As well as its appropriate mechanism of action, the highly favourable safety profile of MRx-4DP0004 makes it a particularly attractive candidate for COVID-19 patients, and may potentially allow us to prevent or delay their progression to requiring ventilation and intensive care.”

CJRS claim portal for job retention is now open - 20 April 2020

April 2020

This is a reminder to employers that the CJRS claim portal is now open for claims.

New: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

Following our CJRS update on 15 April, please note today the government extended the scheme by one month. CJRS will now be in place until the end of June and be kept under review.

The HMRC has also confirmed

• that it will be an online only claim service
• You can make a claim yourself even if you usually use an agent
• Claims will be paid within six working days.

Minimum furlough periods

Any employees you place on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed multiple times, but each separate instance must be for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks.

If your employee is on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave or shared parental leave

The normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply.
You can claim through the scheme for enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:

maternity pay
adoption pay
paternity pay
shared parental pay

Working for a different employer?

If contractually allowed, your employees are permitted to work for another employer whilst you have placed them on furlough.

Please note, to make a claim on 20 April you will also need:

• A Government Gateway (GG) ID and password. If you do not have one, then apply now online, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for 'HMRC services: sign in or register'

• To be enrolled for PAYE online. If you are not, you must do this now

• How to calculate and make your claim here Also the Government's step by step guide

The second mega-lab at Alderley Park in Cheshire has begun to test thousands of patient samples a day for coronavirus.

April 2020

The lab is part of what will be the biggest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history, testing samples from drive-through test sites across the country

Testing Minister Lord Bethell has today personally thanked the teams staffing the new Lighthouse Labs for their efforts to rapidly scale coronavirus testing
The second Lighthouse Lab in Alderley Park is now operational, testing thousands of patient samples each day for coronavirus.

The lab will help rapidly increase the country’s capacity to test for coronavirus to tens of thousands of samples each day.

Alderley Park is the second site to become fully operational, after the Health Secretary officially opened the first Lighthouse Lab in Milton Keynes last week. The final site will open in Glasgow next week, completing the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history.

Testing Minister Lord Bethell spoke to teams at the 2 fully operational Lighthouse Labs on Friday to thank them for their tireless efforts to rapidly scale up testing and was taken on a virtual tour of the new site at Alderley Park.

Lighthouse Labs in Milton Keynes, Alderley Park and Glasgow have increased their staff with teams of highly qualified volunteers from industry and academia, supporting them to rapidly set up facilities with huge capacity to test patient samples.

Nearly 5,000 visors have already been produced by Freemasons who have adapted their businesses production lines to meet demand, across England and Wales to provide PPE.

April 2020

• Freemasons across England and Wales are joining forces to provide essential PPE equipment to care homes to protect the vulnerable and the staff who care for them.

• Nearly 5,000 visors have already been produced with help from the Freemasons, who have adapted their businesses production lines to meet demand.

• A dedicated Covid-19 group will now spearhead a national campaign to ramp up production in order to supply care homes and others who need help.

Freemasons across England and Wales are coming together to provide vital personal protective equipment (PPE) for care homes to protect the elderly, following health secretary Matt Hancock’s call for a "Herculean effort" to protect critical NHS staff.

The government is currently supplying 58,000 separate organisations including pharmacies, care homes and GP surgeries with PPE, which has led to logistical issues due to sheer demand.

While the NHS has been prioritised, care homes are struggling to source PPE equipment. The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the governing body for Freemasons, has 18 care homes and 1,000 residents, through its Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI).

Dr David Staples, CEO of UGLE, said: “Freemasons have a proud history of providing care to the elderly, and as a number of our members fall into the vulnerable category, we are stepping forward to help in their time of need. No elderly person – or the staff who care for them – should believe their life is at risk due to the lack of essential equipment. And no parent or grandchild should feel their loved ones were left unprotected during this national emergency.”

He continued: “Freemasons across the country are already taking steps to safeguard our vulnerable loved ones and the millions of carers who help protect and care for them during this time.

“Not only can we help provide physical protection but we can also – through our core values of friendship, respect, integrity and charity – help provide monetary support though Age UK, the ability to provide cross-generational friendship; and highlight our respect for this generation by providing for them in their hour of need.”

In just two days, Scunthorpe Freemasons made 1,000 St Lawrence full-face visors to protect carers working for the RMBI. The work was done at the premises of Cymarc Engineering, which normally makes components for the rail sector and the motorbike industry.

Company owner Mark Hooton said: “From nothing to 1,000 St Lawrence visors were manufactured, assembled and packed in just two days. I’ve been overwhelmed by the help of volunteers who’ve stepped up to help make this possible. Without them this would not have happened.”

Mark Hooton
Mr Hooton switched his highly specialised industrial laser-cutting equipment to producing aluminium frames for his own design of visor in a move prompted by a cry for help from the RMBI, which was looking for visors for staff in its care homes.

Within 24 hours, he had created a prototype, and was then supported by other members of his lodge and his staff in gearing up to produce hundreds every day, including sourcing raw materials, establishing logistics channels, setting a production line and defining the product in a document.

Mr Hooton is now supplying 600 visors for the Carers Trust, which had been unable to secure a single visor for its staff due to the national shortage.

Freemason Sean Fitzgerald from Valence 5388 Lodge, which meets in Upminster, also donated 500 packs of antiseptic wipes to the Carers Trust and 500 visors to NHS Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Face shields to protect frontline and key workers are also being made by Colin Breckons from Norwich. He is making the face shields using his 3D printers and giving them away free to the NHS and other key workers.

A monetary donation came from Freemasons to help produce the visors. He has been inundated with requests and says there is a struggle to find the plastic needed for the visors, of which he aims to make at least 2,000.

Abadare Face Masks project In Wales, Freemasons from the Aberpennar Masonic Lodge, Aberdare donated 100 safety visors to surgeries in the North Cynon Valley.

Beverley Evans, advanced nurse practitioner, said: “I would like to thank Aberpennar Lodge, on behalf of the surgeries in North Cynon Valley, for the 100 visors they've donated. We are so grateful for this much-needed equipment that was organised by Mark Griffiths and his wife Joanne. I also want to say this has really highlighted the good work Freemasons do, as people are very unaware of the charitable work done by the Freemasons.”

North Wales Freemasons donated £2,250 to help produce PPE face visors, after Joseph Mearman – from
St David’s Lodge – set up a 3D printer system to make visors for local hospitals.

UGLE’s Dr Staples added: “I am extremely proud of how our members have helped to step into the breach during this national crisis. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the support we will be providing. We are now galvanizing the membership on a national level to help ramp up demand, and we aim to be supplying thousands of new items of PPE in the next few weeks.”

NHSE/I statement on redeploying the optical workforce and College Response

April 2020

Deploying the clinical and non-clinical optical workforce to support the NHS clinical delivery plan for COVID-19

The optical workforce in England constitutes around 27,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, students and businesses that are current registered with the General Optical Council (GOC).

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the suspension of routine eye care, this multi-skilled workforce could be called upon for increasing surge capacity.

The optical workforce has a wide range of skills and experience that can be utilised to undertake activities that will help clinical colleagues and the wider workforce during COVID-19.

This document sets out the principles of safe redeployment and healthcare delivery as critical care units prepare and deliver increased activity during surge and super-surge in the coronavirus pandemic.

It is expected that the clinical optical workforce can be used to free up other roles within the health and social care system and help maintain the delivery of other non-coronavirus related essential services.

However, contribution in these other roles would have to be done on a voluntary basis and would be outside of the workforce individual’s scope as an optometrist or dispensing opticians, unless it is in the provision of eye care. By calling on the optical workforce, this will enable the existing healthcare workforce to have the time to focus on tasks at the top end of their competencies.

Some of the optical workforce will still be required to maintain urgent and essential eye care access the system. It is crucial that this is maintained to reduce pressures on GPs and emergency hospital departments

The College response:

NHS England/Improvement has produced guidance on utilising the optical workforce to respond to patient care and service delivery needs in the context of COVID-19.

The guidance highlights a range of ways in which optometrists can contribute to NHS service delivery in this time of urgent, large-scale demand. This includes on a remunerated and voluntary basis, and across a range of NHS settings.

We are disappointed that the guidance does not make more explicit reference to optometrists’ existing clinical skills. The College continues to engage in UK-wide discussions with key stakeholders on how workforce capacity in the optical sector can most appropriately be drawn upon, and how members can be best supported in contributing to NHS service delivery at this time of need. Informed by this, we will produce guidance for members if needed.

Editors Note: Our professionals, many presently under deployed surely could provide specialist services that will be needed as lockdown is reduced and testing becomes more available and prevalent. To keep lockdown reduction safe the only way forward will be regular testing of those allowed back to work and social activities. Our profession is charged with collating sensitive medical data of ts patients and has the PMS facilities to record the data and with a few additions relay those to NHS England with Px details. Practices are used to such interventions and have the ability to contact and recall testees on a regular basis. I believe we have the key to unlock the process of Lockdown within our practices,

Call to action – act on eye problems during this Covid Lockdown

April 2020

As the pandemic becomes more established, concerns have been raised that people suffering from serious non Covid-19 conditions are not seeking support – including because they are anxious about the risk of catching Covid-19 or concerned about ‘burdening’ stretched GP and hospital services.

This has prompted the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) to urge patients and the public to continue to seek help for serious conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Read the full AoMRC statement.

FODO has reported to us that its members have reported similar concerns in eye care in the UK and Ireland.

Last week we heard that some ophthalmology departments had noticed a reduction in the number of people attending for retinal detachment surgery, the most likely cause being people not acting on serious signs and symptoms during the pandemic.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has said that many “ophthalmologists are concerned that some patients may be too worried to attend appointments”. It has collaborated with the Macular Society to emphasise that injection treatments and other care to reduce the risk of severe vision loss continue. It has also highlighted its collaboration with the College of Optometrists which aims to “minimise the risk of visual loss by maintaining essential eye care in hospitals and the community”. Learn more.

Opticians will of course be playing their role by referring emergency patients whose care cannot be postponed through local emergency ophthalmology pathways.

To raise public awareness, the RNIB has also advised patients to seek help for any of the following symptoms:

• Loss of vision
• Blurred vision
• Pain with or without discharge
• Light sensitivity
• Double vision
• Flashes of light in their vision
• Disturbances in their vision
• New floating bits in their vision.

The RNIB advises that if patients have any “sudden onset loss of vision or double vision they should contact their hospital’s A&E department for advice”, and that otherwise people should call their “own or a local optician in the first instance and 111 if they are not available”. It urges people not to ignore “these symptoms or wait until after the Covid-19 situation has eased”.

Coronavirus: AstraZeneca to start trial on COVID-19 treatment drug

April 2020

Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Tuesday that it would start a clinical trial on Calquence, which is aimed at treating the exaggerated immune response associated with COVID-19 infection caused by the coronavirus.

Calquence is an inhibitor of the enzyme Bruton Tyrosine Kinase (BTK), which is a key part of the B-cell receptor signalling pathway, and is currently used to treat certain types of blood cancers.
The goal of the trial, called CALVARI, is to assess the effectiveness and safety of adding the drug to best supportive care (BSC) for patients afflicted with the coronavirus and help reduce mortality and the need for assisted ventilation.

“With this trial we are responding to the novel insights of the scientific community and hope to demonstrate that adding Calquence to best supportive care reduces the need to place patients on ventilators and improves their chances of survival. This is the fastest launch of any clinical trial in the history of AstraZeneca,” said José Baselga, Executive Vice President, Oncology R&D.
Louis M. Staudt, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of the Lymphoid Malignancies Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), added: “Given the well documented role of the protein BTK in regulating inflammation, it is possible that inhibiting BTK with acalabrutinib could provide clinical benefit in patients with advanced COVID-19 lung disease. As with all new treatments, it will be necessary to gather data from clinical trials in order to understand the best and safest treatment options for patients.”

AstraZeneca shares have jumped over 6% in the market open on the news:

“CALAVI is based on early clinical data with Calquence demonstrating that a decrease in inflammation caused by BTK inhibition appears to reduce the severity of COVID-19-induced respiratory distress,” said the group in a statement.

“This large, multicentre, global, randomised trial uses a two-part patient-centric design developed in record time to accelerate data capture and analysis. Part one evaluates the addition of Calquence to BSC (best supportive care) versus BSC alone in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 who are not in the intensive care unit (ICU). Part two evaluates the addition of Calquence to BSC in a cohort of patients in the ICU (intensive care unit).”

Novavax Accelerates Initiation of COVID-19 Vaccine Trial to Mid-May

April 2020

Novavax announced it has identified a coronavirus vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, a stable, prefusion protein made using Novavax’ proprietary nanoparticle technology, and will initiate a first-in-human trial in mid-May. Novavax’ proprietary Matrix-M adjuvant will be incorporated with NVX-CoV2373 in order to enhance immune responses and stimulate high levels of neutralizing antibodies.

NVX-CoV2373 was shown to be highly immunogenic in animal models measuring spike protein-specific antibodies, antibodies that block the binding of the spike protein to the receptor and wild-type virus neutralizing antibodies.

High levels of spike protein-specific antibodies with ACE-2 human receptor binding domain blocking activity and SARS-CoV-2 wild-type virus neutralizing antibodies were observed after a single immunization.

In addition, the already high microneutralization titers seen after one dose increased eight fold with a second dose. High titer microneutralizing antibodies are generally accepted evidence that a vaccine is likely to be protective in humans.

“Our scientists identified an ideal vaccine candidate selected from a number of constructs and, in partnership with Dr. Matthew Frieman, demonstrated that NVX-CoV2373 produces high levels of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in animal studies,” Gregory Glenn, MD, President of Research and Development at Novavax, said in a company news release. “In addition, we have worked closely with our colleagues at Emergent BioSolutions to transfer our production technology that allows the manufacture of GMP vaccine for clinical trials. With preliminary CEPI funding, these heroic efforts, combined with the candidate’s excellent early results, put us in position to have preliminary human data in July.”

“We validated that NVX-CoV2373 generates high titer neutralizing antibodies against live SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Matthew Frieman, PhD, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a company news release. “This is strong evidence that the vaccine created by Novavax has the potential to be highly immunogenic in humans which could lead to protection from COVID-19 and helping to control the spread of this disease.”

The NVX-CoV2373 clinical development plan combines a phase 1/phase 2 approach to allow rapid advancement during the current coronavirus pandemic. The phase 1 clinical trial is a placebo-controlled observer blinded study of ~130 healthy adults and includes assessment of dosage amount and number of vaccinations. The trial is expected to begin in mid-May with preliminary immunogenicity and safety results in July.

As previously announced, in March, Novavax entered into an agreement with Emergent BioSolutions to provide contract development and manufacturing services, supplying Novavax with GMP vaccine product for use in its clinical trials. This agreement offers the potential to leverage Emergent’s rapid deployment capabilities and expertise that provide Novavax scalability and capacity to produce vaccine product.

Also in March, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) awarded an initial funding of $4 million to support Novavax’ efforts, with additional funding discussions ongoing.
“Because of the tireless efforts and commitment of the Novavax team and our collaborators, we are preparing to initiate the NVX-CoV2373 phase 1 trial in mid-May, weeks ahead of schedule,” Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novavax, said in the news release. “This progress demonstrates the ability of our recombinant nanoparticle technology to rapidly create vaccine candidates for emerging viruses like SARS-CoV-2. In addition, the performance of NVX-CoV2373 in multiple preclinical studies and testing gives us increased confidence in its potential to protect against COVID-19 disease.”

Health Secretary launches biggest diagnostic lab network in British history to test for coronavirus

April 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has today officially opened the biggest diagnostic lab network in British history at the launch of a new a site in Milton Keynes.

This is the first of 3 ‘Lighthouse Labs’ to be set up across the country, dramatically increasing the number of coronavirus tests that can take place each day

Each lab will have the capacity to test tens of thousands of patient samples each day, prioritising NHS staff to help them return to work

Health Secretary Matt Hancock visited Milton Keynes today to launch the first Lighthouse Lab, a diagnostics facility which has the capacity to test tens of thousands of patient samples each day for coronavirus.

The site in Milton Keynes is the first of 3 mega-labs that will be integrated into the new national testing infrastructure, with new sites being set up each day across the country to take patient samples. This is the first of three Lighthouse Labs to be set up across the country, dramatically increasing the number of coronavirus tests that can take place each day. The labs have taken their name from the PCR testing technology, which uses fluorescent light to detect the virus.

Since rollout began on 24 March, there are now 13 drive-through sites for NHS frontline staff and their families in operation across the UK, helping to provide the labs with patient samples.

Two further Lighthouse Labs will be opened in Alderley Park and Glasgow in the next 2 weeks to further add lab capacity to test swabs for the virus. The testing of NHS staff and their families currently in isolation will continue to be prioritised, allowing those testing negative, or with family members who test negative, to return to work.

The lab in Milton Keynes is already able to test thousands of patient samples each day, and will work with other Lighthouse Labs to automate the testing process with robotics to increase this to tens of thousands over the coming weeks.

A new digital platform is currently also under construction to meet the UK’s target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. The platform will automate the country’s collection of patient samples, supported by world-class, cross-sector British logistics experts, supported by military planners.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: " We have set the challenge of achieving a 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month. A stream of new testing and diagnostic facilities are being brought online, and the opening of the first of our new Lighthouse Labs is an historic moment."

Backed by Britain’s world-class scientists and industry partners, the opening of Milton Keynes lab today is a crucial step taken in tackling this virus.

National Testing Co-ordinator Professor John Newton said: " The progress made to increase coronavirus testing across the UK in just a matter of weeks is truly remarkable. I am proud to see the country pulling together in unprecedented times to achieve unprecedented things. The Lighthouse Labs will be the largest network of diagnostic labs in British history.
New testing sites are a key part of our 5-pillar plan to scale up testing. We will use the new mega-labs to continue our work to prioritise NHS staff and key workers currently in isolation, helping those without the virus safely return to work."

Last week the Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the UK government’s 5-pillar plan to rapidly scale up coronavirus testing across the UK. The new 5-pillar plan outlines the ambitions to:

Pillar 1: Scale up swab testing in PHE labs and NHS hospitals for those with a medical need and the most critical workers to 25,000 a day in England by mid to late April, with the aligned testing strategies of the NHS in the Devolved Administrations benefiting from PHE’s partnership with Roche through a central UK allocation mechanism

Pillar 2: Deliver increased commercial swab testing for critical key workers in the NHS across the UK, before then expanding to key workers in other sectors

Pillar 3: Develop blood testing to help know if people across the UK have the right antibodies and so have high levels of immunity to coronavirus

Pillar 4: Conduct UK-wide surveillance testing to learn more about the spread of the disease and help develop new tests and treatments

Pillar 5: Create a new National Effort for testing, to build a mass-testing capacity for the UK at a completely new scale

So far more than 280,000 coronavirus tests have taken place across the UK.

Professor John Newton of Public Health England has been appointed as National Testing Co-ordinator to bring together government, industry, academia, the NHS and many others, behind this national effort to better understand how the virus is spreading.

The Lighthouse Labs are being actively supported by pharma companies GSK and AstraZeneca, who are providing access to data and resources to further increase their capacity as they scale up at record pace. An extensive supply chain of resources is being established to bring further resources to these facilities as they become operational and scale up.

The new Lighthouse Labs have been constructed through a partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, Medicines Discovery Catapult, UK Biocentre and the University of Glasgow. Their development is being closely supported by both NHS and Public Health England.

Industry responds to call to arms to build British diagnostics industry at scale

April 2020

Pharmaceutical giants and diagnostic companies join forces on plans to roll out millions of coronavirus (COVID-19) tests.

Government sets specific new challenge to industry to help achieve 100,000 tests a day by end of April

Business consortium set up to rapidly develop new antibody tests

The UK’s top pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies are teaming up to rapidly develop and roll out millions of coronavirus tests in the coming months as part of the next phase of the government’s 5-pillar national testing strategy to identify if people have the virus.

A number of existing suppliers and UK-based global companies have already responded positively to the government’s call to action on the testing national effort.

Pharmaceutical giants like AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have been creating new national business collaborations, to help deliver on the government’s plan to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April.

Their work primarily focuses on tests to identify whether people currently have the virus, and will be targeted on frontline healthcare and other essential workers who have the virus before deploying the tests to the wider population.

New developments from businesses working to scale-up testing programmes include: a new testing laboratory to be set up by AstraZeneca, GSK and Cambridge University to be used for screening for coronavirus testing, with the aim of carrying out 30,000 tests a day by the start of May. The companies are exploring the use of alternative chemical reagents for test kits in order to help overcome current supply shortages

AstraZeneca and GSK are also providing scientific and technical expertise in automation and robotics to support the government’s new national testing centres

Thermo Fisher has committed to continuing to supply the UK with testing kits to test for the presence of the coronavirus virus and is working to scale up manufacturing at its existing UK sites

Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing technology is being used worldwide, including in multiple labs in the UK, to rapidly sequence the coronavirus and other pathogens that may also be present in a sample. This is supporting epidemiology and scientific understanding of coronavirus. The company’s research and development team is also exploring advanced test options using its DNA/RNA sequencing technology

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: "We are rapidly scaling up the national effort to boost testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, support our NHS and, ultimately, save lives.
I am proud that we have already had an impressive response from companies of different scales and from different sectors coming forward with a commitment to work together, share expertise and resources to establish a large British diagnostics industry which can help us achieve 100,000 tests a day by the end of April."

"We will do everything we can to tackle this virus and we are pooling all the resources from our world-leading life sciences industry, top universities and clinical leaders to overcome this together."

NHS works with tech firms to help care home residents and patients connect with loved ones

April 2020

Thousands of isolated residents and patients will be able to connect with their family and friends with video call devices, the government has announced.

NHSX is working with technology firms to help some of society’s most at-risk and isolated people access vital emotional support and companionship during COVID-19.

As part of this work, Facebook will provide up to 2,050 of its Portal video calling devices for free to hospitals, care homes and other settings including hospices, in-patient learning disability and autism units.
50 of the devices have already been deployed to pilot sites in Surrey, with Manchester, Newcastle and London and other areas to follow, with support from Accenture.

NHSX Digital Transformation Director Iain O’Neil said, " Technology companies big and small continue to pledge their resources and expertise to support our NHS and social care system in these unprecedented times. We are working hard to find and develop services that meet people’s equally unprecedented needs. Technology has never been so important to providing one of life’s most essential things – the ability to communicate with the people we love regardless of where they are."

As well as providing solutions to reducing social isolation among residents and patients, NHSX is working with a range of technology companies to support the NHS and social care system in these unprecedented times.

Additional solutions include enabling health and care staff to work remotely when they may be advised to work at home, improving communication between clinical and care teams, shifting hospital outpatients to virtual appointments, and accelerating the use of online and video consultations within GP and primary care services.

The Association of Optometrists warn gaps in aid for self-employed will have a devastating impact on eye health practitioners

April 2020

The AOP has warned that gaps in the financial support the Government has offered to self-employed workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are having a devastating impact on eye health practitioners.

While support measures have been announced for the self-employed, thousands of locum optometrists who provide vital health care for the NHS are falling through the cracks in terms of eligibility.

Some employed and self-employed eye health practitioners benefit under the current schemes which mean they get 80% of their income guaranteed up to £2,500 a month. However, a great many locums are finding themselves in a desperate financial situation through no fault of their own.

Those who have been self-employed as a locum for less than one year are among those who do not qualify for any support package for their loss of income. With routine sight testing now suspended amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, many are out of work with no option but to accumulate unaffordable debt.

Henry Leonard, Head of Clinical and Regulatory at the AOP said: “Many locum optometrists who provide essential support to optical practices across the UK, from the big corporates to the smaller independents, are feeling completely abandoned. They have seen their incomes drop to zero and have been provided with no safety-net from the Government.

“While someone who is employed will have guaranteed income from the Government, a locum with no income and no significant assets to support them could have nothing at all. This forgotten group includes newly qualified optometrists at the beginning of their careers and parents returning from parental leave.

“We’re calling on the Government to recognise the crisis point that many of these individuals are now facing and take urgent steps to address this underserved unfairness.”

The AOP, which represents optometrists across the UK including employees, self-employed (locum), and business owners, highlights that eye health practitioners play a key role in NHS health care, providing sight correction for the three-quarters of the population who need it, as well as identifying and treating eye disease.

It warns that this already undervalued and underfunded NHS service will be undermined by a failure to protect a vital part of its workforce. The warning echoes calls from the British Dental Association (BDA) who has urged Chancellor Rishi-Sunak to reassess his package for the self-employed or risk unprecedented damage to the dental service.

In response, the AOP has written to the Chancellor. The letter raises concerns on behalf of the AOP’s self-employed (locum) optometrist members while also highlighting failings in the current scheme for employees.

The letter includes four key asks:

• That the Government introduces measures to support self-employed locums returning to work and the newly-qualified
• That self-employed locums who are receiving no help because they were earning just above the support ceiling, are given comparable financial aid as employees with similar incomes
• Help for those self-employed workers who route part of their income via dividends, where they can show that their dividend income is derived from work
• That provision is made for employees who do not qualify because they have recently changed jobs

Could hydroxychloroquin possibly be an early answer in treatment and prevention in Covid 19 patients?

April 2020

A new article in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today(CRST) provides an in-depth examination of the use of hydroxychloroquine for both prophylaxis and therapeutic treatment of COVID-19.

Authors William B. Trattler, MD; Gary Wörtz, MD; and Sean Ianchulev, MD, MPH, examine the use of hydroxychloroquine, a widely available generic medication that is approved by the FDA. The drug has a good safety profile and a very long half-life, and it is commonly used for a variety of indications, including the treatment of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and the prevention and treatment of malaria.

The authors argue that basic science evidence supports the use of hydroxychloroquine for both the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. In addition, clinical research suggests that hydroxychloroquine alone and potentially in conjunction with the antibiotic azithromycin can be used to treat patients with COVID-19.

A report published online ahead of print in February indicated that the early clinical experience with both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for patients with COVID-19 was very positive.9 In a more recent randomized study from China that evaluated 62 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, 80.6% (25 of 31) treated with hydroxychloroquine 200 mg twice per day for 5 days experienced an improvement in their pneumonia (as evaluated by computed tomography scan) versus 54% (17 of 31) of COVID-19 patients on placebo.7 Fever was also eliminated more rapidly (2.2 vs 3.2 days) in treated versus untreated patients, respectively.

“Rather than wait for symptoms to develop, it may be beneficial to achieve a therapeutic level of hydroxychloroquine in one’s system if there is an increased risk for exposure, such as in first responders, health care workers, or someone who came into contact with a COVID-19–positive individual. The hope is that the hydroxychloroquine onboard would minimize the severity of the COVID-19 infection and reduce the chance of requiring hospitalization,” the authors said.

The full article can be found on the CRST homepage.

£300 million announced for community pharmacies to support them during coronavirus outbreak

April 2020

£300 million in funding will ensure community pharmacies can continue to carry out essential services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Community pharmacies are receiving a £300 million cash boost to ensure they can continue to carry out essential services during the coronavirus outbreak.

The advanced funding injection will support pharmacies to provide critical services to protect community health, including supplying medicines and providing medical advice to patients, during a period of unprecedented demand.

£200 million was paid on 1 April to pharmacy contractors, alongside their normal monthly payments from the NHS Business Services Authority, and a further £100 million will be allocated on 1 May 2020.

In addition to this funding, the Department of Health and Social Care has already reduced the number of services that community pharmacy are required to deliver to allow them to prioritise the most important tasks, but they will continue to receive their full NHS funding. During this period, pharmacies will not be required to pilot new services or carry out non-critical administrative tasks, such as updating practice leaflets.

Minister for Health Jo Churchill said: " Every day, community pharmacies carry out critical work to protect the health of the public and support the wider NHS. This is even more important now as we face this unprecedented time. We hugely value the role of the community pharmacy, which is why we are backing them with £300 million of advanced funding to support them as we continue to assess the full additional impact of coronavirus on community pharmacy, To further support pharmacies, we have reduced the services they need to deliver during COVID-19 but have maintained their full funding.

" We are also working to increase the workforce capacity and flexibility, with calls to those pharmacy professionals who have recently left professional registers to return and have ensured that there is adequate indemnity insurance cover community pharmacy activities during the pandemic, for locum staff, and for professionals who may be relocated to pharmacies that are not their normal place of work."

First new ventilators to roll off production line this weekend as industry answers call to step up manufacturing

March 2020

The first devices from the Government’s ventilator challenge will roll off the production line this weekend, ahead of delivery to the NHS next week, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove has announced today.

The news comes as some of the biggest names in British manufacturing race to step up ventilator supplies to help protect the NHS and save lives throughout the coronavirus pandemic, as part of the Prime Minister’s call to manufacturers.

This weekend, the first batch of the Penlon ventilator device, which has been rapidly adapted from other existing ventilator designs, will be ready for dispatch, following approval from the MHRA that it meets the necessary safety requirements.

The device is being manufactured by a consortium* including Formula 1 teams McLaren and Mercedes, Ford, Siemens and Meggitt. An initial delivery will be ready this weekend, with potentially hundreds more of that device to follow, alongside thousands more of other new devices in the coming weeks.

Other existing ventilator devices are also being scaled up, in collaboration with British and international industry, including products from Diamedica, Breas Medical and Smiths Group.

A number of other British manufacturers have also started urgent production of new ventilators, designed from scratch, following efforts from the industry and Government to rapidly increase numbers available to the NHS.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said: "Throughout our history British manufacturing has always stepped up in times of national need.
Ventilators are one of the most complex medical devices and the speed and scale that design and production is ramping up is awe inspiring.
We will do whatever it takes to ensure the NHS and social care sector has the support and equipment it needs to save lives."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: " We are doing everything we can to support our NHS staff fighting this battle on the frontline, and it’s crucial we get even more ventilators there as soon as possible.
We have seen a fantastic response from businesses to our call for a national effort - and I’m delighted these companies accepted the challenge to save lives across the country."

The Government has provided a number of letters of intent to purchase potentially thousands more ventilators with companies who have credible designs, subject to them passing the regulator and strict safety tests.

There are a number of companies involved in these devices including Plexus, Rolls Royce, GKN Aerospace, Team Consulting, Cogent, Dyson, TTP plc, Sagentia, Smith & Nephew, Cambridge Consultants, PA Consulting, Babcock, Oxford University, OES Medical, BMW, Pitlane Consortium and Kings College London.

Separately, a team led by UCL, working with Mercedes Benz, will also produce 10,000 new CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices to support affected patients, with a team from Oxford University also developing related technology, which will increase the capacity to provide oxygen to affected patients at an earlier stage in the process of the disease.

Thanks to the work of consortiums that are scaling up production of smaller manufacturers as well as the ingenuity of the biggest names in manufacturing to support the UK’s response to this public health emergency, many are coming up with new designs for this high tech medical devices in a matter of weeks, rather than months, further underlining the scale of this coordinated effort.

The Penlon device is based on elements found in their current range of CE marked products and meets the rapidly manufactured ventilator system specification. It is a fully intubated mechanical ventilator designed to provide support to critically ill patients with a range of functions including volume and pressure controlled ventilation.

PHN creates permanent page to list all Optical Companies providing emergency supplies and services to practices during pandemic.

March 2020

Covid List of manuafacturers
During the Pandemic you will be able to find a list of all suppliers and their contact details who at the time of publishing are available to provide goods, services or verbal help to practices requiring help during emergency provision.

Companies information has already been sent by the FMO for lens manufacturers as well as individuals from the contact industry.

We will add categories as we receive further details. See the page here

The page will remain during the pandemic and can be found either by using the left hand margin tabs and clicking “Dispensing Briefing” and then under it the tab “manufacturers providing services during Covid”

Or even simpler you can click on banners top and side with the same message (Example above)

If you are continuing to provide emergency support during the Covid Pandemic with goods; services or verbal help please send us your company details in the following format to

Product/Goods Type; Company Name; Town; Telephone Number; Email. to mail

We will add categories as the list expands

PHN and Opchat skeleton staff are working 7 days a week to keep the Optical Sector informed, thanks for the comments we have received, we appreciate your support. Please spread the word!

Government launches new drive on coronavirus tests for frontline NHS staff

March 2020

NHS staff will be first in line for a new coronavirus (COVID-19) testing programme being developed in collaboration with government and industry.

Government working with industry, philanthropy and universities to significantly scale up testing.

New partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific, Amazon, Boots, Royal Mail and Randox, alongside the Wellcome Trust and top UK universities to boost testing capacity for frontline NHS staff.
Dozens of universities, research institutes and companies across Britain are lending their testing equipment to 3 new hub laboratories which will be set up for the duration of the crisis. No equipment already in use for coronavirus testing or other vital work will be taken.

All current coronavirus testing and research will continue, including at existing local NHS and Public Health England test laboratories, and this new programme will add significant new capacity.
Thermo Fisher Scientific and Randox, who make the equipment, are providing extensive logistical and technical support.

The first lab is now undergoing validation which is expected by tomorrow. Once approval is given, it is expected to enter operation over the weekend, initially on a fairly small scale, and processing around 800 samples.

It will be scaled up every week from then on, with 2 other hub laboratories being stocked with equipment and opening soon.

The first samples to be processed in the labs will be taken from frontline health workers. As the labs’ capacity increases, other frontline workers will be tested. The samples will be taken at special sites set up around the country, initially in coronavirus hotspots such as London.

Work is also underway to source more of the kits needed to take samples from people - of which there is a worldwide shortage.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:" We want to save lives, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS. Healthcare staff are key in our fight against the virus and I want to ensure that any frontline NHS or care worker who has symptoms of coronavirus or who has a family member with symptoms can be tested quickly and reliably. I pay tribute to the generosity and public spirit of Britain’s universities, research institutes and companies who have lent us their equipment without hesitation."

Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: "Laboratory-based testing on this scale is a little like building the medical equivalent of a car factory. We are assembling many different parts, some of them quite specialised and hard to find, then getting them to work accurately together in a highly co-ordinated process. There are bound to be teething problems, so we cannot switch on hundreds of thousands of lab tests overnight. But we hope that soon these hub laboratories will be operating round the clock, allowing us to significantly scale up our testing"

This new service, which will be free, will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS staff need to stay at home. Those who test negative for coronavirus will be able to return to work - enhancing the capacity of the NHS and social care to treat patients and care for those in community settings, with plans for a full roll-out for health, social care and other frontline workers.

Amazon and Royal Mail will help with logistics, while Boots has been supporting initial trials by supplying volunteer healthcare clinicians as testers. It will continue this support as the testing rolls out across the UK. Testing will not be done at Boots stores and these tests will not be available over the counter or for purchase online from any retailers.

Sebastian James, Managing Director, Boots UK and ROI said:" I am extremely proud that Boots is supporting COVID-19 testing for NHS workers. Boots has been at the heart of UK healthcare for 171 years and has always come forward to support the community in times of need. We will work with the NHS to recruit trained professionals – both Boots colleagues and from the wider community.
I am sure there will be many trained healthcare clinicians and students, who will step forward to support our dedicated NHS colleagues. Drive through test locations are being defined but will be spread across the UK; they will not however be in Boots stores, allowing our colleagues to focus on supporting our patients and customers."

Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon, said: " We believe our role serving customers and the community during this time is a critical one, and we are committed to working closely with the Government to identify ways in which we can support efforts to respond to the crisis."

Mark Stevenson, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Thermo Fisher Scientific, said:" Our diagnostic test for COVID-19 will help to protect patients and enable medical staff to respond swiftly to treat those who are ill and prevent the spread of infection. This is closely aligned with Thermo Fisher’s mission - to enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. In partnership with the UK government and our industry partners, we are committed to expanding the availability of diagnostic testing to prevent the spread of this virus."

Randox CEO Dr Peter FitzGerald said " We are committed to this important initiative to support NHS frontline staff. We have significant diagnostic capability and assets within the UK and, at this time of unparalleled national need, look forward to working with collaborative partners to meet the Government’s objectives."

Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, said: Widespread diagnostic testing during a pandemic is enormously important to controlling the spread of infection. This initiative is a substantial step forward in our ability to fight this disease that will save many lives. Alongside other difficult but necessary public health measures such as physical distancing, cancelling mass gatherings, and school closures, testing is a critically important part of the response. Wellcome is extremely grateful to the government, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Amazon and Randox for joining this important partnership, and has been supporting this critical initiative.

Rico Back, Royal Mail Group Chief Executive Officer, said: " Royal Mail fully understands the devastating impact of the coronavirus outbreak on families, businesses and communities across the UK. We have a responsibility to help people stay connected, especially in this crisis when many are unable to leave their home. The Universal Postal Service provides a lifeline for businesses and communities across the UK, and never more so than at this difficult time. We already deliver vital Government mail in relation to coronavirus. We are working closely with pharmacies and NHS trusts across the UK. And we are delivering many prescriptions and hospital appointments. This is of key importance for us. We will safely deliver these vital tests, a key step forward in the nation’s battle against the virus.


20.00 Hours March 26th 2020

Thank you workers of the NHSLets show our appreciation by applauding them at your front door, gate , balcony or wherever you can be seen.

Thanks for looking after us in our worst of times. While we shelter you are on the front line

Accept our claps as our appreciation.

Financial and Business Planning during the Covid-19 Pandemic

March 2020

FODO has provided a useful guide for eyecare providers who may struggle in the coming weeks and months. The information covers staff retention, tax payments both direct and indirect, sick pay and loans and grants. Click here to our Business Briefing section where you will finf more advice and then click on FODO Financial and Business Planning.

Many Drugs Already Approved by FDA May Have Promise Against COVID-19

March 2020

"as reported by Eyewire from USA"

Two new studies each suggest that dozens of drugs already approved for use in the United States may prove effective against the new coronavirus, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Computer modeling studies showed the most promising drugs included several antiviral drugs—including Darunavir, Nelfinavir, and Saquinavir—and several other types of drugs, including: the ACE inhibitor Moexipril; the chemotherapy drugs Daunorubicin and Mitoxantrone; the painkiller Metamizole; the antihistamine Bepotastine; and the antimalarial drug Atovaquone.

Read the full article.

UK launches whole genome sequence alliance to map spread of coronavirus

March 2020

The £20 million investment could help public health agencies combat COVID-19 and future pandemics.

• Government and scientific community back new genome sequencing consortium to map spread of COVID-19
• £20 million investment will allow scientists and clinicians to unlock secrets of the disease
• the genetic code could arm public health agencies and clinicians with a unique, cutting-edge tool to combat COVID-19

The government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser have backed the UK’s leading clinicians and scientists to map how COVID-19 spreads and behaves by using whole genome sequencing. Through a £20 million investment, the consortium will look for breakthroughs that help the UK respond to this and future pandemics, and save lives.

COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium - comprised of the NHS, Public Health Agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and numerous academic institutions - will deliver large scale, rapid sequencing of the cause of the disease and share intelligence with hospitals, regional NHS centres and the government.

Samples from patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be sent to a network of sequencing centres which currently includes Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield.

The Wellcome Sanger Institute, one of the world’s most advanced centres of genomes and data, will collaborate with expert groups across the country to analyse the genetic code of COVID-19 samples circulating in the UK and in doing so, give public health agencies and clinicians a unique, cutting-edge tool to combat the virus.

By looking at the whole virus genome in people who have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, scientists can monitor changes in the virus at a national scale to understand how the virus is spreading and whether different strains are emerging.

This will help clinical care of patients and save lives.

Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance said:" Genomic sequencing will help us understand COVID-19 and its spread. It can also help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions.
The UK is one of the world’s leading destinations for genomics research and development, and I am confident that our best minds, working as part of this consortium, will make vital breakthroughs to help us tackle this disease."

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: " At a critical moment in history, this new consortium will bring together the UK’s brightest and best scientists to build our understanding of this pandemic, tackle the disease and ultimately, save lives. As a government we are working tirelessly to do all we can to fight COVID-19 to protect as many lives and save as many jobs as possible."

The UK Consortium, supported by the government, including the NHS, Public Health England, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Wellcome, will enable clinicians and public health teams to rapidly investigate clusters of cases in hospitals, care homes and the community, to understand how the virus is spread and implement appropriate infection control measures.

New technology challenge to support people who are isolating

March 2020

£500,000 of funding is available for technology companies who come up with digital support solutions for people who need to stay at home because of coronavirus.

The funding will be available to innovators who can find digital ways to support people who need help during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The ‘Techforce19’ challenge aims to support those who need to stay at home for several weeks and need help. This could include people who need mental health support or who have social care needs.
Funding of up to £25,000 per company is available.

The programme is looking for digital solutions that can be launched in the next few weeks, and could include:

• providing remote social care – for example, by locating and matching qualified carers to those in need
• optimising the volunteer sector – for example, by developing tools to recruit, train and coordinate local volunteers into clinical and non-clinical workers
• improving mental health support – for example, by making it easier to discover and deliver mental health services and support
• any other solutions to ease pressures on services and people during this time

This technology will supplement existing support for those who may be most affected by staying at home for long periods of time.

The programme is being launched by NHSX and managed by PUBLIC, a GovTech venture firm. PUBLIC will not receive any payment for running this competition.

For more information on the programme and how to apply, visit

Vaccine trials among recipients of £20 million coronavirus research investment

March 2020

Trials of new coronavirus vaccine among 6 projects to receive share of £20 million.

• Trials of new coronavirus vaccine among 6 projects to receive share of £20 million
• other projects to combat coronavirus include immediately repurposing existing treatments to treat patients already diagnosed with coronavirus
• the UK is leading the scientific and medical response to the coronavirus outbreak

Six coronavirus research projects, including 2 focused on vaccination trials, will be the first to benefit from a share of £20 million in government investment, Business Secretary Alok Sharma today (23 March) announced.

Two government-backed projects will receive new funding, enabling pre-clinical and clinical vaccine trials, as well as supporting researchers to develop manufacturing processes to produce a vaccine at a million-dose scale.

Other projects receiving funding examine how existing treatments could be repurposed to treat coronavirus, developing antibodies to help target the virus, and examining how people at greatest risk of catching it could be identified.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: "Whether testing new drugs or examining how to repurpose existing ones, UK scientists and researchers have been working tirelessly on the development of treatments for coronavirus."

"The projects we are funding today will be vital in our work to support our valuable NHS and protect people’s lives." Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

In the midst of a global health emergency the UK is using all its extensive research expertise to quickly develop new vaccines to target this international threat.

This investment will speed up globally-recognised vaccine development capabilities and help us find a new defence against this disease.

The 6 projects receiving funding today are supporting and encouraging the UK’s world-class researchers and experts to speed up coronavirus research including developing new vaccines and treatments. Alongside the clinical trials, other projects include:

• repurposing existing therapies. Patients being treated by the NHS for coronavirus are taking part in a new clinical trial to test existing therapies developed for other conditions such as HIV. These therapies might help improve patients’ recovery
• developing antibodies that target coronavirus. Researchers are aiming to develop a new coronavirus therapy by developing antibodies that target the disease – doing so will help treat a range of coronavirus infections and help people’s immune systems recognise the disease and destroy it
• testing approved drugs. Researchers will test around 1,000 approved drugs on cells in laboratory conditions to determine if they might be able to treat the disease
• answering urgent questions relating to coronavirus. Scientists will collect samples and data from patients diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK to answer important questions including which peoples have a higher risk of severe illness, the best way to diagnose the disease, how their immune systems are coping, and closely monitoring the effects of drugs being used. The data could help control the outbreak and improve treatments for patients

Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said: " The UK is home to incredible scientists and researchers who are all at the forefront of their field, and all united in their aim; protecting people’s lives from coronavirus."

The announcement made today reflects the vital work being undertaken by our scientists to help develop vaccines and treatments. This research could herald important breakthroughs that will put the NHS in a stronger position to respond to the outbreak.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: " The world faces an unprecedented challenge in our efforts to tackle the spread of COVID-19 and it is vital we harness our research capabilities to the fullest extent to limit the outbreak and protect life."

Alongside the world-leading research overseen by the NIHR, these new 6 projects will allow us to boost our existing knowledge and test new and innovative ways to understand and treat the disease.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport said: " These studies will be critical to finding better ways to treat and manage COVID-19, which we hope will help to save lives, protect the more vulnerable, and support the development, trials and in due course the scale up of production of much-needed vaccines. We will continue to support new proposals for research and innovation that will help the UK and others to tackle the pandemic caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2."

Today’s announcement builds on the UK’s world-class expertise and capability in global health and infectious disease, and supports the government’s efforts to save lives, protect the vulnerable and support the NHS.

It follows £30 million of new government funding for the National Institute for Health Research to enable further rapid research into COVID-19, and an additional £10 million to increase Public Health England’s ability to test people and monitor the virus, announced in the Budget (11 March).

Newsflash 8.30 pm Monday Prime Minister calls for complete lockdown for most

March 2020

No one should leave home unless


For food or pharmacy and restrict the number of occassions
To look after someone with health conditions
or they are absolutely required to work as key workers and cannot work from home

All Non food and other retails shops an electrical stores must close tomorrow 24th March

This statement from Boris Johnson came after the OFNC story below and it is still unclear whether the closure of shops will affect optical practice. Or whether they can be used to continue with urgent eye care (not sight testing) or not.

We will reach out to find you further information.

Urgent Advice to all Optical Practices and Practitioners in England from OFNC– 23 March 2020

March 2020

Coronavirus / COVID-19


We realise that so far there has been less clarity for the eye care sector from NHS England than in the other UK countries and that Government messaging about risk has changed significantly as the crisis has unfolded.

OFNC is therefore issuing this advice to the sector in England setting out

• that providers should no longer be offering or providing routine sight tests even as a matter of clinical judgement as previously
• that providers should be focusing on contingency plans to provide essential and urgent eye care to those who need throughout the crisis without putting staff at risk
• that this does not mean all practices should remain open if this is not possible and those that can may well operate on a remote consultation/advice only basis
• initial thoughts on the meaning of ‘essential’ and ‘urgent’ in this context which many change over time.

The national optical representative bodies (ABDO, AOP and FODO) have now issued/are issuing guidance for their members in line with this advice.

The OFNC (which is comprised of the national representative bodies) is in close touch with NHS England-NHS Improvement, DHSC, the College of Optometrists, the GOC and LOCSU, all of whom are sighted on this advice.

We hope to shortly to receive further advice from NHS England-NHS Improvement about necessary contractual and financial support to sustain essential and urgent eye care over the coming weeks and months.

National Situation

In the meantime, we are all operating in extremely difficult and rapidly changing circumstances in responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

As in any crisis, our priorities must be the safety of patients who need essential or urgent eye care and eye care colleagues and the wider public, and ensuring that no unnecessary eye health burdens fall on other parts of the NHS and social care which are already stretched.

OFNC and the national optical bodies are in constant contact with the government and NHS England-Improvement and our advice is based on the latest evidence and advice from Public Health England, the government’s chief scientific and clinical advisers, the College of Optometrists, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the ABDO.

The country is now moving fully into the late Delay Phase of the pandemic and the Prime Minster has advised that a total shut down of normal social functioning may be necessary to slow the spread of the virus.


Pending further advice from NHS England, which is expected urgently including about NHS financial and contractual support, practices will be making contingency plans to deliver essential and urgent services to their patients and others who need it –by phone or as remotely as possible whenever possible and clinically appropriate to do so.

During this stage of the crisis, all routine sight-testing should be postponed to prevent the virus spreading. In all other cases, scrupulous hygiene and disinfection regimes should be adhered to including the basics of frequent, thorough (20 second) handwashing, frequent surface disinfection and sneezing/coughing etiquette.

Not all practices will be able to remain functioning throughout the crisis owing to factors beyond their control such as staff absences through travel restrictions, staff themselves in at risk groups that have to self-isolate.

Others will be looking to how they can most safely and effectively provide essential and urgent eye care services.

This may involve

• remote working
• consolidation of sites – whilst maintaining capacity to sustain social distancing, e.g. staggering appointments to minimize number of people in the practice at any one time
• rostering staff to minimise essential travel, footfall and social contact at work
• networking IP optometrists
• postponing non-essential sights tests (note key workers and other groups might be in particular may need of essential eye care, especially in the event of a prolonged lock-down period)
• dealing with most eye care issues via telephone or video calling
• implementing social distancing between staff and patients as much as possible
• implementing social distancing between staff at all times (e.g. including commuting, lunch breaks etc)
• thinking about how to advise other healthcare workers who may be able to access high risk patients who have eye issues in locked-down locations such as care homes
• regularly checking the College of Optometrists website for changing clinical advice and Q&A. You can access the College of Optometrists website here
• using the flexibilities about posting spectacles and contact lenses and making safety, judgements about using recently expired prescription and contact lens specifications on the balance of risk to ensure people can continue to use spectacles and contact lenses whist avoiding all unnecessary travel
• knowing local contingency arrangements for seeking ophthalmology advice and how and where to refer patients who do need urgent ophthalmological care (e.g. retinal detachment, wet AMD, closed angle glaucoma)
• ensuing staff recognise that their own health and safety is the top priority (otherwise we will not be able to help patients and the public in need)
• ensuring staff know that, if they have any doubts about safety (e.g. potentially aerosol effects of non-contact tonometry) or any other procedure, they should not perform it but should inform the patient and note the record with reason (annotating COVID-19). You can access GOC professional regulatory guidance about professional practice during the crisis here
• supporting staff mental health and wellbeing during the crisis as they may well have serious worries about loved ones, supplies and finances outside work
• understanding that a practice which has closed its doors to walk-ins but which is answering enquires from patients and the public (even by a skeleton staff working from their own homes) is still providing essential and urgent eye care services.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

At present PPE is not advised for eye health practitioners working in primary care settings who should only be seeing asymptomatic or COVID-19 negative patients and then rarely face-to-face.

Nevertheless, we are in close touch with government, public health bodies, supply chains and the College of Optometrists about this. PPE is currently being prioritized for the highest risk specialties, including ENT. It is unlikely therefore that PPE for optical practice will be prioritized in the short-medium term, despite requests.

However, if official guidance on the use of PPE in primary eye care settings changes, new guidance will be issued and PPE resources distributed to ensure effective coverage across the health service.

If evidence and official guidance on the use of PPE in primary eye care settings change, we will issue further advice. We will also inform you if supply pressure ease or priorities change.

Practices and practitioners should take these factors into account in implementing this guidance. In particular, staff should not perform procedures where they could be at risk and should note patient records accordingly (annotated COVID-19).


Depending on the effectiveness of public health measures, of which this advice is part, the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis could continue for a matter of months rather than weeks. Our job as health professionals is to ensure that as far as possible people continue to have access to high quality essential and urgent eye care and advice especially the isolated elderly, keyworkers and children whilst, at the same time keeping, ourselves safe using remote advice and consultation wherever possible.

This advice is intended to help practices and practitioners do that.

If the crisis worsens, this may involve working as part of local NHS planning networks or community essential services hubs and may include colleagues volunteering for shifts to fulfil these roles.

OFNC is grateful to all the dedicated care workers in the eye health sector who are keeping the population well and supported through this crisis.

Further Information

We will continue to issue advice as the situation evolves and, hopefully, in time continues to improve.


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