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Opchat Magazine Professional Matters PagesProfessional Matters News, October to December 2020


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NHS ENGLAND confirms COVID-19 FUNDING for Optical Practices in ENGLAND and Updates Standard Operating Proceedure
GOC launches public consultation on COVID-19 statements
E-GOS rollout delayed
Optometrists advised to register for free PPE on the PPE Portal now
ABDO calls for an end to discrimination
GOC suspends Bradford based optometrist
OFNC Update:COVID-19 FUNDING for Optical Practices in England
GOS Scotland Announcement on GOS Scotland procedures
Archived Professional Matters July to September 2020

NHS ENGLAND confirms COVID-19 FUNDING for Optical Practices in ENGLAND and Updates Standard Operating Proceedure

October 2020

Since the end of June the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) has continued to negotiate hard with NHS England to secure ongoing COVID-19 funding for practices, which was initially set to end on 30 June.

While negotiations continued, we agreed with NHS England that COVID-19 funding for practices in England would be extended to cover July and August, as reported in our sector updates of 20 and 31 July.

Given the further delays to NHS England’s announcement on funding, we also called for COVID-19 funding to cover September, as reported in our updates of 4 September and 6 October.

The OFNC has today welcomed the belated publication of NHS England guidance (attached) on future COVID-19 funding for GOS contactors in England, which confirms:

• COVID funding for both August and September for all GOS contractors who have delivered at least 40% of their pre-pandemic GOS 1 sight test activity in those months. We understand the September funding will be paid in arrears in November, and the NHS England Business Services Authority will audit a random sample of practices to check their activity has met the 40% threshold

• Some additional COVID funding at a reducing level until the end of 2020:
o For all domiciliary providers, and
o For GOS-dependent fixed practices in deprived areas of England that meet a set of qualifying criteria, or can show they need support on an exceptional basis

We understand the October and November funding will be paid to qualifying contractors in December, and the December funding will be paid in January 2021

• Reimbursement for PPE expenses incurred by contractors during the pandemic, via a mechanism to be agreed with the OFNC

The new guidance also confirms that if public health measures require a regional lockdown or further national lockdown, it may be necessary to return GOS contracts to the operating model used between 1 April and 17 June 2020 to support practices that are open for essential care with average GOS support payments.

The OFNC has already opened discussions with NHS England about 2nd wave monitoring and potential contingency plans.

In the meantime, the OFNC has prepared a new set of Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs) to help practices understand how this further funding will work. These are currently being agreed with NHS England and will be published shortly.

As set out in NHS England’s 1 April letter, the OFNC has worked with NHS England to agree the terms of a reduction to the average GOS support payments to reflects savings that contractors will have made on variable costs during the pandemic. After detailed discussion informed by evidence from the sector, the level of reduction has been agreed at 6.43% of the average support payments for mandatory contract holders and 7.86% for additional services (domiciliary) contracts.

We are pleased that this will only apply from 1 April to 17 June – the period during which NHS England had suspended routine sight tests. The deductions are due to start at a date yet to be confirmed, and to be spread between then and 31 March 2021 to support practices with cashflow.

However, the OFNC is also working with NHS England on a pragmatic solution to funding PPE costs incurred by practices before the DHSC PPE Portal became operational in August, and this may affect the deduction plans set out above.

NHS England has also published an updated Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for optical practices, replaying the SOP published on 17 June. The new SOP includes additional information on communications, staff risk assessments and operating arrangements. The new information largely reflects existing sector guidance.


October 2020

Babo Logo
The British Association of Behavioural Optometrists (BABO) has responded to the ESR consultation calling for current graduate training to continue as the basis for learning advanced skills

The current graduate level training for Optometrists pays limited attention to the important developments in our field.

For example, it does not use techniques derived from evidence-based practice to deal with basic binocular vision disorders such as Convergence Insufficiency, even though this form of treatment was shown to be effective in research using a randomised controlled trial in 2008 (

Consequently, these techniques remain unknown to most UK Optometrists. We apply similar emerging research to assess and treat other binocular vision disorders, and more complex areas such as neuro-rehabilitation, with great success, as evidenced by the growing demand for our members’ services.

These approaches are also gaining approval in other expert fields. In 2018 the British Dyslexia Association and the Association of Teachers of Special Needs recommended that all children with reading difficulties whose issues cannot be resolved by prescription lenses should have a Behavioural Optometry Assessment prior to being seen for an Educational Psychology evaluation. Our 50 certified members nationally cannot cope with the demand.

While there is a skills shortage in this area of the profession, one advantage of the current system is that Optometrists are science graduates and can learn the theory and practice of neuro-developmental based ocular assessment and treatment through short courses.

The concern with an apprenticeship-based system is that trainees will lack the knowledge and experience to bridge the gap between routine practice and the advanced skills needed, not just in binocular vision and neuro-rehabilitation, but also in other areas such as low vision, complex contact lens fitting and in emerging subspecialties such as therapeutics, glaucoma and medical retina.

Our view is that a review of current graduate training should continue to take place, but the focus should be on ensuring that trainees are provided with the advanced knowledge and experience base to meet the needs and demands of the public in the future.

We are concerned that the current educational strategic review seeks only to achieve a minimally competent practitioner.

GOC launches public consultation on COVID-19 statements

October 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) has launched a consultation seeking views on how it can continue to support its registrants and the optical sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as different parts of the UK experience local and potentially national restrictions now and in the future.

In particular, the consultation is asking for feedback on:

• A proposed framework, for when the GOC’s existing COVID-19 statements should apply moving forward, linked to The College of Optometrists’ red-amber-green system;

• The content and impact of the GOC’s existing COVID-19 statements; and

• Whether there are further areas of GOC regulations, legislation or guidance that need to change or be put in place to ensure more effective regulation in the future, either during a pandemic or as a result of the pandemic.

To support registrants and the sector during the pandemic, the GOC has published a series of statements which remove unnecessary regulatory barriers, clarify certain areas of practice and reinforce existing guidance in our Standards for optometrists, dispensing opticians, students and businesses. In addition, some of the statements outline amendments to GOC regulatory functions, such as fitness to practise and education.

Marcus Dye, GOC Acting Director of Strategy, said: “We knew early on that some of our legislation and regulations may prevent registrants from being able to deliver care effectively during a pandemic, particularly remote care delivery.

We moved as quickly as we could to implement our COVID-19 statements, which meant that we were only able to consult with a small number of key stakeholders in the optical and healthcare sectors.

Therefore, we are consulting more widely now as it’s extremely important to us that we seek feedback from our registrants, patients and the public to ensure that our statements remain effective and we can consider how they should apply in different phases of the current or any future pandemic.”

The current statements will remain in place pending the outcome of this consultation. The review dates have been extended to 31 January 2021, apart from the CET provision statement which has been extended to 31 December 2021.

To respond to the consultation, visit the GOC Consultation Hub. The consultation will close on 7 January 2021.


October 2020

The American Academy of Optometry Foundation, in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Vision, is pleased to announce the 2020 J. Pat Cummings Scholarship recipients.

This award is bestowed annually to a second or third year optometry student who best demonstrates the ideal eye care standards of practice, achievement in both academic performance and extra-curricular activities, and participation with other professional pursuits such as involvement with patients through internships, community service, and other volunteer activities.

The 2020 J. Pat Cummings Scholarship recipients are:

Brian Helmetag Chicago College of Optometry at Midwestern University
Alexander Wong Illinois College of Optometry
Emily Ertel Indiana University School of Optometry
Binu Koruthu Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry
Vincent Thoren Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University School of Optometry
James Carpenter Michigan College of Optometry
Eric Van Meter Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry
Iva Hoxha New England College of Optometry
Heather Polson Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry
Brianna Marie Herring Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry
Kathleen Thomas Pacific University College of Optometry
Dustin Weidert Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University
Rebecca Phung Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University
Sonali Das Southern College of Optometry
Julie Song State University of New York College of Optometry
Abby Almomar The Ohio State University College of Optometry
Sanjana Sravani Vitta University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry
Madison Sachs University of California Berkeley School of Optometry
Hovhannes Hovhannisyan University of Houston College of Optometry
Sarah D'Amore University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry
Samuel Killion University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry
Marilou Paquet University of Montreal School of Optometry
Cassie Napier University of Pikeville Kentucky School of Optometry
Cedrick Mah University of Waterloo School of Optometry & Vision Science
Crystal Sin Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry

The AAOF is thankful for the professional relationship between the Foundation and Johnson & Johnson Vision. Their support for this program continues to uphold the high caliber of optometric resident education.

E-GOS rollout delayed

October 2020

New online claims system – new roll outs to be paused

PCSE has said it is keen to ensure a smooth transition for all users to the new online GOS claims system.

Based on user feedback, monitoring performance levels and modelling take up figures it has "identified a number of service improvements we want to make to ensure we maintain strong continuity of service as more contractors come on board".

PCSE has therefore agreed with NHS England and NHS Improvement to pause any new contractors coming on board for now to introduce a period of system stability. This will allow us to review the system, ensure all aspects are working as designed and address any improvements needed before continuing further with a full sector roll out.

Contractors already using e-GOS will not be affected by the temporary pause.

Full sector rollout will resume once PCSE makes the necessary improvements.

Optometrists advised to register for free PPE on the PPE Portal now

October 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) encourages and urges all Optometrists with an NHS contract to continue registering with HM Government’s PPE Portal to order COVID-19 PPE, free of charge.

Infection rates are rising in the UK and winter is approaching. To ensure all primary care providers have a resilient route for getting free COVID-19 PPE, we have increased order limits on the PPE Portal.

Eligible providers can order PPE through the portal to meet the increased need that has arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (the portal was previously an emergency top-up system).

The DHSC has partnered with the NHS and the e-commerce industry to develop this service in order to ensure that those on the frontline have what they need. The overriding priority is to protect people and our wider communities, thereby reducing infections and saving lives. We must make sure everyone has the PPE they need so please do play your part in this collective effort.

Register and access the PPE Portal, using your NHS registered email. If you do not have an NHS registered email, for a limited time, there is a more streamlined process for GOS contracting practices to obtain a NHSmail account which requires the completion of an online form.

The DHSC will also be re-inviting practices that are yet to register during the week commencing 12 October. Emails will come from PPE Dedicated Supply Channel

Currently, Optometrists can order Type IIR masks, Aprons, Gloves, Visors and Hand Hygiene to meet their COVID-19 PPE requirements, all free of charge, through the PPE Portal.

The latest guidance on the PPE Portal, including order limits for Optometrists based on daily sight tests conducted, can be found on the GOV.UK website.

ABDO calls for an end to discrimination

October 2020

The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) is calling for action to end discrimination and harassment in the optical industry in response to a survey of members.

The survey of ABDO members demonstrates that harassment and discrimination is present to an unacceptable level within the industry.

ABDO’s key concerns include:

• 21 per cent of respondents did not know whether their company had discrimination or harassment policies and 12 per cent reported that their companies do not have such policies.

• 47 per cent of women who responded reported prejudice on grounds of gender sometimes, a lot of the time or almost all of the time.

• 32 per cent of respondents reported prejudice on grounds of age sometimes, a lot of the time or almost all of the time.

• 24 per cent of respondents reported prejudice on grounds of race sometimes, a lot of the time or almost all of the time.

ABDO President Jo Holmes FBDO says, “I am shocked and dismayed by the results of this survey. It is everyone’s duty to promote and practise equality, inclusion and to respect diversity. It shows that our members are on the receiving end of prejudiced behaviour at work, which is unacceptable. Whilst it is the case that some individuals may be unaware of their prejudice or are unconsciously biased, we must do our best to raise awareness and continue to support our members.

"What is worse is that many of those who completed the survey commented that they had not reported their concerns, either because they felt nothing would be done, or because they feared it might make things worse. We need to offer our support to all our colleagues who are experiencing this and very much make this a situation of the past.”

ABDO is calling on employers to:

• Highlight their policies on discrimination and harassment.

• Improve training for managers on handling complaints about discrimination and harassment.

ABDO has issued policy guidance which can be found here and offers support for both employers and employees on what to do in cases of harassment and/or discrimination.

GOC suspends Bradford based optometrist

October 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Shahid Nazir, an optometrist based in Bradford, from its register for three months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct.

This is in relation to failing to carry out adequate sight tests and keep adequate records.

Mr Nazir has until 15 October 2020 to appeal his suspension.

OFNC Update:COVID-19 FUNDING for Optical Practices in England

October 2020

The OFNC's last update on COVID-19 payments for GOS providers in England was on 4 September, confirming that average GOS support would remain in place until the end of August.

Since then, they have continued to negotiate with NHS England on further support for domiciliary providers, and for those fixed practices in deprived areas which rely heavily on GOS income.

NHS England has repeatedly told us it expects to issue further guidance on this and other pandemic-related issues soon – and is aware that the ongoing delay in confirming these arrangements is adding to the difficulties the sector is experiencing.

We have argued to NHS England that in these circumstances, the only fair thing to do is to make further support payments to all GOS contractors for September, in the same way as for August. We understand that NHS England is actively considering this and will confirm the position on September support payments in its forthcoming guidance.

It has been reported this week that Primary Care Support England (PCSE) has told some contractors that on NHS England’s instructions, no further support payments are to be processed this month. We raised this with NHS England this morning as a matter of urgency, and can confirm it does not mean that NHS England has decided to stop support payments. The ongoing delay in issuing updated NHS England guidance means that any payments relating to September may have to be made retrospectively, rather than as part of the normal round of payments made in October.

This further delay and confusion is adding to the significant challenges facing the sector as a result of COVID-19.

The OFNC continues to press NHS England to confirm the position on future support as a top priority, and will provide more information as soon as they can.

GOS Scotland Announcement on GOS Scotland procedures

October 2020

The Directorate of Primary Care has re-confirmed that GOS(S)1 ‘cheque book’ slips do not need to be completed while the current suspension of patient and patient representative signatures remains in effect due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement follows clarification from NHS Counter Fraud Services and applies to both face to face and remote consultations. So, you can discard any GOS(S)1 ‘cheque book’ slips that you have retained for eye examinations undertaken after 20 March 2020 (when the suspension of signatures was first announced in PCA(O)2020(4)).In March this year.

Practitioners are also advised that they do not need to retain the relevant paper form regarding a GOS(S)3 or GOS(S)4 optical voucher payment claim via eOphthalmic.

In line with College of Optometrists guidance, practitioners must ensure that the patient’s record contains the date of the eye examination. It recommends that the nature of the consultation should also be recorded i.e. face to face or remote.

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