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

Optometry/Dispensing

For Ophthalmology Section Page Click Here.

 

GOC erases Liverpool based optometrist
GOC launches consultation on Speaking Up guidance for registrants
Rules around the devolved Countries during recent restriction changes
FODO Scotland announces changes
OFNC UPDATE: NHS ENGLAND agrees to cancel planned GOS Grant to offset contractors PPE costs
College publishes 5 Year Plan
Important Changes to the Scottish Diabetic Eye Screening Programme January 2021
Online GOS claims – Rollout restarts
College provides further information on Test and Trace, QR Codes and what to do when Pxs found positive after a visit.
GOC launches new FtP Focus learning bulletin
GOC suspends Nottingham based optometrist
GOC shares recommendations on RQF levels for optometrists and dispensing opticians
Supporting optical professions throughout the pandemic. A letter sent to all Professionals from Government, Examination Bodies, NHS and GOC
Hiring EEA and Swiss Optometrists and DO's after Brexit? What you need to know
NHS commissioning reforms planned in England
DHSC plans reform for Health Care Regs in 2021
FODO reduces membership fees
Glaucoma Lasers of Today and How They Differ
New Irish Optometrists’ President says priority is to reduce waiting times for Cataract treatment
ABDO agrees Membership Charge Freeze
PSA opens Covid-19 Consultation
College appoints Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom as Clinical Adviser
ABDO's First Consultation Day online.
GOC suspends Leeds based student dispensing optician
CET grants, forms and payments reminders for the Professions
GOC suspends Leicester based optometrist Honey Rose
Further reflections from ABDO following GOC ESR Comments
News from General Optical Council meeting yesterday 11th November 2020

College announces changes to Pre-Registraton Supervision Scheme
Financial support extended for locums
Eye care under national lockdown
Scottish eye care services up for review
GOC suspends London based optometrist
NHS ENGLAND confirms COVID-19 FUNDING for Optical Practices in ENGLAND and Updates Standard Operating Proceedure
BABO Responds to the GOC EDUCATION STRATEGIC REVIEW (ESR)
GOC launches public consultation on COVID-19 statements
AAOF announces the 2020 JOHNSON & JOHNSON VISION J. PAT CUMMINGS SCHOLARSHIPS
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


GOC erases Liverpool based optometrist

December 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Rajendra Chopra, an optometrist based in Liverpool, from its register with immediate effect.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct. This is in relation to his failure to carry out an adequate sight test and make an appropriate referral, and his actions were inappropriate, misleading and dishonest.

Mr Chopra has until 29 December 2020 to appeal his suspension.

GOC launches consultation on Speaking Up guidance for registrants

December 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) has launched a consultation on new draft Speaking Up guidance for registrants, which aims to support registrants to speak up about concerns they have, in particular those that affect patient and public safety.

The consultation seeks feedback on the clarity and impacts of the guidance, as well as whether there are any areas missing.

The guidance was developed following learnings from recent healthcare inquiries into issues where staff’s concerns were not appropriately actioned, such as the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry.

The document has been drafted in line with the GOC’s duty of candour guidance, which outlines the need for registrants to be open and honest when things go wrong, and should be read alongside the Standards for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, Standards for Students and Standards for Optical Businesses.

The consultation follows the recent launch of the GOC’s new learning bulletin for registrants on the fitness to practise (FtP) process called ‘FtP FOCUS’.
Marcus Dye, GOC Acting Director of Strategy, said: “Within our Standards, registrants have a duty to speak up about concerns they have when patients and the public might be at risk. We know this can be a difficult thing for individuals to do, and even more so if businesses are unaware of their responsibility to make the process simple and to act on concerns raised.

We’ve split the guidance into two parts, one for individuals and one for businesses, to be as clear as possible on our expectations. Whether you’re an individual or a business, we encourage all registrants to read both parts.

As always, we expect registrants to use their professional judgement when applying the guidance, however we hope that this new guidance will give them the confidence to speak up when they need to in order to protect the public.”

To respond to the consultation, visit the GOC Consultation Hub. The consultation will close on 10 March 2021.

Rules around the devolved Countries following recent restriction changes

December 2020

Northern Ireland Covid-19 update

Ophthalmic Services has confirmed that new hard lockdown restrictions that come into play on 26 December will not impact how ophthalmic contractor services practices currently operate.

It has reminded contractors to continue to adhere to IPC measures and to screen all patients before visiting the practice.

Members in Northern Ireland should continue to follow the GOS/Primary Eyecare Services Operational Guidance document and keep up to date with Covid-19 announcements by visiting the HSC BSO Covid-19 page.

GOS/Primary Eyecare Services Operational Guidance document

HSC BSO Covid-19 page.                     

Wales Covid-19 update

David O’Sullivan, Chief Optometric Adviser, has confirmed that optometry practices will remain open throughout the next round of national restrictions, enabling patients to access essential health services.

Eye care providers are advised to continue following Amber Phase 2, College of Optometrists Covid-19 and IPC guidance.

Read more (English) (Welsh). 

Scotland – new PCA published

The Directorate of Primary Care has published PCA(O)2020(21) which sets out the importance of ongoing compliance with IPC guidance, the financial support model for mobile practices from the new year, the rules against charging additional fees or offering of inducements to GOS patients, use of eOphthalmic and mandatory GOS training. The PCA:

• Confirms mobile practices will continue to receive financial support until activity has sufficiently recovered, with a new remuneration model on and after Friday 1 January 2020

• Reminds contractors “not to require payment of fees or similar from patients for the provision of general ophthalmic services (other than those fees/charges as detailed in regulations or the Statement)” and that regulations prohibit inducements to GOS patients.

Members in Scotland are advised to read the latest PCA in full.    

England – lateral flow testing update

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE-I) has written to all GOS contractors to confirm that it will make regular lateral flow testing available to everybody working in primary care with a patient-facing role for 12 weeks. PCSE has now confirmed contractors will be invited to order test kits and FAQs about the process.

Read NHSE-I’s 16 December letter 

Read PCSE guidance and FAQs on ordering lateral flow tests 

Watch a video on how to perform the test 

            

FODO Scotland announces changes

December 2020

Kathryn Trimmer of Duncan & Todd and Stuart Laird of ASDA are taking over from Hal Rollason when he steps down as Chair of FODO Scotland in the New Year.

Hal is retiring after 18 inspirational years at the helm of FODO Scotland. He is also retiring from Optometry Scotland (OS) which he co-founded in 2003.

At OS, Hal had a pivotal role in designing the new and revised contract and in IT connectivity. He also served as a College Council member for 12 years.

OFNC UPDATE: NHS ENGLAND agrees to cancel planned GOS Grant to offset contractors PPE costs

December 2020

As explained in previous OFNC updates, we have agreed with NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that NHS-funded PPE would be provided to all GOS contractors and have continued to work with NHS England on a pragmatic solution to reimburse practices for PPE costs they incurred before the DHSC PPE portal was made accessible to GOS contractors on 17 August.

Our goal has been to ensure that practices do not lose out from having to source PPE privately for NHS work, while avoiding the bureaucratic burdens involved in submitting and processing receipts, and splitting PPE costs between NHS and self-funded care.

We have now agreed with DHSC and NHS England that the most pragmatic way of achieving this is by cancelling the planned GOS support payment deductions of 6.43% for mandatory contract holders and 7.86% for additional (domiciliary) service contracts, that were due to be applied to support payments for the period from 1 April to 17 June 2020.

Contractors do not need to take any action to implement this agreement.

NHS England has made no deductions to date and now will not do so. This means that contractors no longer need to hold back provision for the retrospective deductions from the support payments they received during the first lockdown.

We hope GOS contractors will welcome this as a fair and simple solution which avoids adding to the administrative burdens on practices in these difficult times.

We have updated the OFNC FAQs guidance to reflect this development.

College publishes 5 Year Plan

December 2020

The college promises over the next five years, to continue to strengthen our relationships with their main partners in the optical sector and with governments and healthcare representatives across the UK to set out the priorities for delivering eye healthcare, including addressing workforce challenges, developing new ways of working and harnessing new technologies, to improve patient outcomes in every setting.

By leading the sector to ensure eye health is high on the agenda of commissioners and policy makers, we will ensure that optometrists’ skills continue to be recognised, used appropriately in designing eye care services, and trusted by patients and the public

Read the full report here

Important Changes to the Scottish Diabetic Eye Screening Programme January 2021

December 2020

A letter has been sent by CMO of Scotland on forthcoming changes to DES Screening.

There are a number of changes to strengthen and extend the Scottish Diabetic Eye Screening (DES) Programme (previously known as Diabetic Retinopathy Screening or DRS).

The changes are based on decisions made by the Scottish Screening Committee (SSC) and take into account advice from the UK National Screening Committee (NSC). The developments will be implemented
from 1 January 2021.

In summary, the changes are:

Revised screening intervals: As recommended by the UK National Screening Committee, people with diabetes who are at low risk of sight loss will now be screened for diabetic retinopathy every two years, rather than every year.

Incorporation of OCT into the DES Programme: Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) will be formally incorporated into the DES Programme and will normally be delivered by DES teams, instead of requiring referral to Ophthalmology.

Incorporation of a visual acuity threshold for OCT: A Visual Acuity (VA) threshold will be introduced for OCT referral in order to ensure that patients are appropriately clinically prioritised

Read the full statement here

Online GOS claims – Rollout restarts

December 2020

PCSE and NHSE-I have confirmed that the paused rollout of the online GOS claims system is now restarting.

PCSE reports undertaking a review of the system and making service improvements over the last few months with the goal of improving overall performance.

PCSE will issue more detailed information on how to resume making the move online to all contractors next week and latest timescales.

College provides further information on Test and Trace, QR Codes and what to do when Pxs found positive after a visit.

December 2020

Here's a few questions

Should I display a NHS QR code in the practice window or maintain a log of people who visit the practice for unplanned appointments?

I have been advised to self-isolate by the Test and Trace / Test and Protect team after a patient who attended the practice for a sight test has tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?

Should I use the NHS Test and Trace or Protect Scotland app on my phone while at work in a healthcare setting?

Do staff who work behind a screen or who are more than 2m from patients have to wear a face covering?

A patient has come in to the practice and now told me that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Do any of the staff need to self-isolate?

What does “one metre plus” social distance advice mean for optical practices in England?

Should I place the poster up on my practice door?

Some of my staff are worried that they are at particular risk from COVID-19. What should I do?

How can I access information to give to patients during the lockdown period?

Finjd out the College's suggested answers here

GOC launches new FtP Focus learning bulletin

December 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) has launched ‘FtP Focus’, a new learning bulletin for registrants on the Fitness to Practise (FtP) process. The bulletin, which will be published quarterly, aims to provide insight into the types of concerns the GOC receives and how it assesses them at every stage of investigation.

The first edition focuses on triage, the first stage of the process. It includes case studies, reflection points, top tips and highlights relevant Standards and Continuing Education and Training (CET) to enable registrants to improve their practice and minimise any risks that may be presented to the public, or to the reputation of the sector. It also includes insights from the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), an independent mediation service for optical care patients and the professionals providing that care.

Dionne Spence, Director of Casework and Resolutions, said: “Through conversations with practitioners, students and businesses who have either gone through the FtP process themselves or have heard about it through others, we became aware that there is a lot of work we can do to dispel some of the myths around FtP and also provide valuable insight into how we approach concerns when they are raised.

Even though many registrants will not have any involvement with FtP, we know that the fear of ever receiving a notification from us can be overwhelming and we hope we can do something about that. The reality is we only receive initial concerns about less than 1% of our registrants, which shows the high-quality care the majority of our registrants deliver. The purpose of the FtP process is not to punish, but to ensure that we consider all concerns raised in a timely, fair and transparent manner.”

To download a copy of FtP Focus, visit the GOC website.

GOC suspends Nottingham based optometrist

December 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Nathan Smith, an optometrist based in Nottingham, 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 his failure to ensure clinical examinations were recorded and perform the necessary examinations prior to Refractive Laser Eye surgery.

Dishonesty was also admitted by Mr Smith.

Mr Smith has until 6 December 2020 to appeal his suspension.

GOC shares recommendations on RQF levels for optometrists and dispensing opticians

December 2020

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has recommended that qualifications approved by the General Optical Council (GOC) for entry onto the register as an optometrist should be set at level 7/11 and at level 6/10 for dispensing opticians on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF)/Framework for Higher Education Qualification (FHEQ) in England – and equivalent in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The GOC co-commissioned the QAA to gather evidence and make a recommendation for the most appropriate entry level qualifications approved by the GOC.

The research was co-commissioned with The College of Optometrists (CoO), the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO), Optometry Schools Council, and Opticians Academic Schools Council (OASC).

The QAA carried out a number of research activities, including:

• a survey of current education providers;
• virtual interviews with a sample of education providers;
• a student survey;
• an industry/employer roundtable;
• analysis of reasons why providers set their courses at a particular level; and
• desk-based analysis of other professional, statutory and regulatory bodies approaches to level recommendations.

Leonie Milliner, GOC Director of Education, said: “We’d like to thank the co-commissioners for their commitment to this important piece of research. For the first time the sector has come together to establish the evidence-base for change on a complex issue central to our strategic review of optical education. Particular thanks to everyone who participated in the research and to the QAA for their extensive work to ensure their recommendations are evidence-based.

The QAA’s research will inform the work of our Expert Advisory Groups as they finalise proposals to update the GOC’s education and training requirements following the close of our consultation, which will include amending our draft Standards for Approved Qualifications to reflect the appropriate qualification framework level for GOC-approved qualifications in optometry and dispensing optics leading to entry to the register.

We will then present the final draft Outcomes for Registration, Standards for Approved Qualifications and Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method to Council for approval in February 2021.”

Douglas Blackstock, QAA’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We’re grateful to the General Optical Council for commissioning us to undertake this research. We believe that setting level 7 for optometrists and level 6 for dispensing opticians as the recommended entry qualifications will help the GOC ensure their services instil public confidence.”

The QAA’s report is available here.

Supporting optical professions throughout the pandemic. A letter sent to all Professionals from Government, Examination Bodies, NHS and GOC

December 2020

Dear Colleagues

Covid-19 has been a challenge for the entire UK population. For primary eyecare teams, we understand the impact of asking you to scale back care in March and we appreciate your sterling efforts to resume service provision to support patients. We know that you continue to work tirelessly to address the backlog of care, all driven by our profession’s enduring common motivation – to deliver the very best care for our patients through this pandemic.

In partnership with patients, we want optometry and dispensing optics professionals always to use their professional judgement to assess risk and to make sure people receive safe care, informed by the values and principles set out in our professional standards. The national standard operating procedures remain your guides and we expect all registrants to follow General Optical Council (GOC) guidance in using their judgement in applying the principles of best practice to the situations they face.

We recognise that some primary eyecare professionals may find themselves working outside their usual scope of practice and this can be stressful. You may have concerns about both the professional practicalities and implications of working in such circumstances.

The healthcare professional regulators, including the GOC, have already committed to take into account factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working, including relevant information about resources, guidelines or protocols in place at the time. The joint statement issued by the healthcare regulators in March 2020 remains applicable.
It is also important to look after each other during this time. We want optometry and dispensing optical professionals to feel supported and cared for at work. Please seek local help if you are finding the situation difficult or challenging.

Finally, we would like to thank every single one of you for your tireless efforts to support patients. We are very proud of the response of the optical professions to this challenge.

Kind regards,

Mr Raymond Curran Head of Ophthalmic Services, Health and Social Care Board Northern Ireland
Mr Colin Davidson President, College of Optometrists
Sir Anthony Garrett General Secretary, Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO)
Dr Nikki Kanani Medical Director for Primary Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement
Mrs Lesley Longstone Registrar and Chief Executive, General Optical Council
Mr David O’Sullivan Chief Optometric Advisor / Prif Optometrig Ymgynghorol, Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru
Dr Janet Pooley Optometric Advisor, Scottish Government

Hiring EEA and Swiss Optometrists and DO's after Brexit? What you need to know

November 2020

The GOC would like to share updates to the process for EEA and Swiss optometrists and dispensing opticians who wish to join the GOC register from 1 January 2021.

From next year, EEA optometrists and dispensing opticians applicants will need to apply for registration via our non-EEA international registration process.

Subject to further legislation to implement the Swiss Citizen’s Rights Agreement, Swiss nationals applying for registration may still apply under the EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications through the general system of recognition until 31 December 2024. This will be under our existing EEA applications process, in line with the EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications.

EEA and Swiss applicants who have started their application for registration prior to 11pm on 31 December 2020 will still be able to apply on the same basis that they started the process. This will be under the existing EEA application process which complies with the EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications.

Existing EEA and Swiss GOC registrants will not be affected by these changes.

You can view the guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care here.

NHS commissioning reforms planned in England

November 2020

The NHS is consulting on reforms to the commissioning system in England.

The consultation document published yesterday explores how Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) can be “embedded in legislation or guidance”.

The consultation covers a wide range of concepts, including using primary care leadership “spanning general practice, community and mental health care, social care, pharmacy, dentistry, optometry and the voluntary sector” to help drive changes.

The main aim of the legislative change proposals, however, is to abolish regulatory oversight and functions around enforcing competition in the NHS.

This includes recommending that “regulations made under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 should be revoked and that the powers in primary legislation under which they are made should be repealed, and that NHS services be removed from the scope of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015”.

Although this has been set out before, the NHS now proposes two options for reforms:

• Option 1: a statutory committee model with an Accountable Officer that binds together current statutory organisations.

• Option 2: a statutory corporate NHS body model that additionally brings CCG statutory functions into the ICS.

Read the whole document here


This statement comes in the same week DHSC set out its plans to “limit excess bureaucracy” in the NHS by legislating to “make procurement more flexible”. DHSC states it plans to replace existing regulations with “a new procurement regime, alongside numerous changes to the roles of competition and the national tariff within the NHS”. See next story on Professional Matters

DHSC plans reform for Health Care Regs in 2021

November 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care will launch a public consultation on detailed proposals to reform the professional regulation framework in early 2021.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published its plans on reducing bureaucracy in the health and social care system. Although the plans focus on England, including major reforms to the procurement regime (see below), it also addresses the issue of UK-wide professional regulation.

DHSC confirms that it will launch a public consultation on detailed proposals to reform the UK’s health professional regulation framework in early 2021. The priorities include:

• Making improvements in fitness to practise
• Introducing more flexibility to allow regulators to respond to changes in healthcare
• Improving collaboration between regulators
• Regulating Physician Associates and Anaesthesia Associates
• Reviewing the number of regulators in the UK. Currently, there are nine regulators, including the GOC.

The DHSC has said it wants “to work with the public, the professions and the regulators to understand how we could simplify the regulatory landscape”.

FODO reduces membership fees

November 2020

To help members through these challenging times, FODO has reduced its 2021 membership subscription by £20 from £161 per FTE to £141 per FTE.

Individual members who work fewer than 130 days per year (about five sessions per week on average) can now also take advantage of a part-time subscription rate at £70.50.

We have introduced reduced membership fees to help offset the increase in insurance premiums as the medical malpractice insurance market has continued to harden this year.

Alan Tinger, Director of Regulatory Affairs, said: “Medical malpractice insurance premiums are increasing across the board. We know this is a challenging time for members and wanted to do everything we could to help. This year we rigorously cut costs and put all non-urgent work on hold to reduce subscription rates for members in 2021. As we announced in September, we are also working with ABDO and the FMO to sell our joint London headquarters. With this in progress, we will build on new ways of working during 2021 to stabilise our future costs at low levels.”

Find out more about the benefits of FODO member

Glaucoma Lasers of Today and How They Differ

November 2020

From Glaucoma Today

“With new laser options hitting the market, laser treatment is now being considered as a first-line level of intervention within the glaucoma treatment decision tree."

It is crucial at this point to take a good look at which lasers are most effective toward patient safety and outcome.” says Jaromir Wasyluk, MD, PhD

Jaromir Wasyluk, MD, PhD, considers current glaucoma laser treatment methods on the market, including SubLiminal cyclophotocoagulation (SubCyclo), and he reviews how they fit into the decision tree of options for glaucoma patients.

In an extract from " Glaucoma Lasers of Today and How They Differ" (Glaucoma Today)

Wasyluk writes “With new laser options hitting the market, laser treatment is now being considered as a first-line level of intervention within the glaucoma treatment decision tree. It is crucial at this point to take a good look at which lasers are most effective toward patient safety and outcome.”

Jaromir Wasyluk, MD, PhD, considers current glaucoma laser treatment methods on the market, including SubLiminal cyclophotocoagulation (SubCyclo), and he reviews how they fit into the decision tree of options for glaucoma patients.

Read the full story here

New Irish Optometrists’ President says priority is to reduce waiting times for Cataract treatment

November 2020

Optometrists to mount national campaign to improve Cataract care

Better health and quality of life can be achieved for thousands of patients by rolling-out an approach to Cataract treatment successful in the North West – the new President of the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) has said.

Galway based Optometrist and AOI President John Weldon said the number one priority to improve public eye health was for the Department of Health to sanction of the Sligo Cataract Scheme as policy for all regions of the country.

This week the Association has asked it’s 600 members to raise this issue with all TDs – and to build an ongoing political focus on the issue. AOI has also written to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the Department of Health and HSE.

“The North West, where the scheme is active has a Cataract waiting time of approximately one year, the shortest in the country, compared to up to five years in the South West. The protocol is simple whereby appointments and follow-up care is shared between the hospital and local Optometrist, getting the patient seen more quickly and the hospital eye department less burdened. This achieves earlier treatment and betters outcomes for patients.

“Expansion of the Scheme is committed to in the Programme for Government, as it was in the previous programme, however there appears to be an ongoing reluctance at decision-making level to change the ‘go to hospital’ approach to public eye-care services.

“We need to move beyond this outdated model and come into line with better practice as in other European countries. Optometrists are significantly under-utilised in public care. Our hospitals do not, and in our view will never, have the capacity to meet the demands of our increasing and aging population.

“We are aware of some additional hospital based cataract facilities which have been developed and are to be developed, but these will not even get close to addressing the scale of capacity problems.

“This is clearly evident in National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures. To the end of October 45,484 people were on the outpatient eye-care waiting list – accelerating an upwards trend from 41,200 at the end of 2019 and 40,600 at the end of 2018.

“Patients are suffering and the problem is worsening year on year. This must be addressed and change.

“There is no reason, or logic, not to mandate the Sligo Scheme as Cataract care policy in all regions. The scheme has already been assessed, quality assured, is clinically proven and has won national health awards. It is in-line with Sláintecare (to increase delivery of community based healthcare outside of hospitals) and also in-line with practice in other European countries.

“In terms of cost, it is 50% less expensive to provide appointments at an Optometrist than in Hospital. In the context of COVID-19, managing patients at their local Optometrist practice reduces travel and population contact.”

In conclusion Mr Weldon said: “The Sligo Scheme provides an attainable win to address capacity difficulties in eye-care and to improve life for patients. AOI is keen to hear the Minister’s response.”

The trial, which covers north Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon and parts of Donegal, ensures that once a patient is referred they will have only one hospital appointment to measure the size of the cataract and a second appointment for the surgery. Appointments and follow-up care are shared between hospital and local optometrists, whereas elsewhere in the country this work is solely the responsibility of the hospital, which increases backlogs.

ABDO agrees Membership Charge Freeze

November 2020

In a move to support members, the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) will not increase membership fees for 2021.

Speaking on behalf of the ABDO Board, Sir Anthony Garrett CBE HonFBDO, ABDO General Secretary said, “Although the Association has seen a drop in income we are acutely aware just how tough life has been and continues to be for many members. We are very aware that those employers who continue do the right thing by paying professional fees for their dispensing opticians have also had a difficult year and do not need additional financial pressure at this time.

“The team at ABDO has worked hard to make substantial savings within the organisation. We are doing our very best to maintain a high quality professional service to all members despite the restrictions placed on us by Covid-19.  Staff and board are making the most of online systems to continue to deliver support to members in a cost-effective manner.”

“We thank all members for their continued support and look forward to resuming a more normal service during the course of 2021.”

PSA opens Covid-19 Consultation

November 2020

Learning from Covid: contribute to our review

It’s easy to look back with hindsight and say to ourselves ‘we could have done that better or differently…’ but in the midst of a pandemic – the like we have not seen for well over a century – we all tried to do our best, but could we have done anything differently and, if so, can this help us plan for future crises?

The PSA are conducting this review to look at how the regulators responded to the pandemic and we’re asking:

‘What lessons can we learn from this first phase of the pandemic that can help us develop strategies to respond to the ongoing situation, learn for future crises and also just help with ‘business as usual?’

And they would welcome your input.

Context

We are working with the regulators we oversee to review their responses to the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic up to July 2020. We hope that this can help us learn lessons and inform how regulation reacts to any future crises.

The challenge to regulators during the pandemic has been to continue to protect patient safety in the crisis through:

Supporting registrants to continue to practise safely, including through Covid-19 specific guidance
Minimising the spread of infection in carrying out the regulatory functions, protecting the regulators’ own workforces and those interacting with them
Enabling students and trainees to continue to progress in their studies safely, maximising their contribution to patient care where possible and
Supporting the health and care workforce to meet the increased demand placed on it by the pandemic.

Regulators responded quickly to the crisis, introducing such measures as:

Temporary registers
Virtual hearings in fitness to practise cases
Greater flexibility in course monitoring and approval of course adaptations in their Quality Assurance of higher education and
New guidance and standards to support registrants through the crisis.

Points to consider

We would be very interested to receive contributions from stakeholders to incorporate into our review, looking for example at:

Which measures, new policies, new approaches or key decisions implemented by regulators during the period do you assess to have been most effective in responding to the pandemic, and why?
Should any measures implemented by regulators during the first phase of the crisis become the new normal?
Are there areas where further work is needed before innovations become adopted in the longer term?
Are there areas where you feel regulatory innovations or actions during this period have been particularly impactful?
Have there been any unintended consequences of measures, new policies, new approaches, or key decisions?
Are there areas where the full impact of measures taken is not yet fully understood?
Do you think that any regulatory gaps have been disclosed by the pandemic?
What are the main learning points for further waves of the virus, other future crises, and future business as usual?

Please feel free to address as many or as few of these questions as you like, or to provide comments any other points in any format.

Please note that the focus of the review is on learning and regulatory policy – should your comments tend more towards matters of the regulator’s performance, while we will be grateful to receive them, we may reroute them into our ongoing process of performance review.

How to get in touch/deadline

The deadline for contributing is Monday, 21 December. You can send us your feedback by emailing covid.learning@professionalstandards.org.uk

College appoints Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom as Clinical Adviser

November 2020

Dr Paramdeep Bilkhul
The College of Optometrists has appointed Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom as a Clinical Adviser following the recent departure of Dr Susan Blakeney FCOptom who fulfilled the role for 19 years. Paramdeep will join Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom in the busy role, answering College member’s queries and providing them with clinical, professional and ethical support.

Paramdeep is an independent prescriber and is keen to enhance the roles of optometrists in delivering clinical and therapeutic care. Currently a Research and Teaching Fellow at Aston University, he is Module Leader on the Scientist Training Programme and Module Co-Leader for Independent Prescribing for Optometrists and helped to set-up and run a specialist dry eye clinic.


He works regularly in practice in the West Midlands, has worked in MECS and PEARS, and contributes to peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the College’s peer review CPD journal, Optometry in Practice.

He has particular interest in ocular allergic disease and meibomian gland dysfunction diagnostics and management. His research has focused on ocular surface disease and contact lens clinical performance.

Paramdeep says: “I’m really excited to be joining the College team as a Clinical Adviser and can’t wait to offer advice and guidance to our members, as well as supporting Daniel Hardiman-McCartney in the other aspects of the role. As a practising optometrist, The College has provided me with never-ending support and opportunities for professional development so I’m looking forward to be able to give back to the profession to the best of my ability.”

Dr Sarah Cant, Director of Policy and Strategy for the College says: “We’re delighted Paramdeep is joining the team and are looking forward to his contribution to our work to support members, develop robust guidance and champion the role of optometrists. He is joining the team at a time when our clinical advice service and guidance are in more demand than ever as we help members navigate the pandemic. I would also like to thank Susan Blakeney for her invaluable contribution to the College across the past 19 years, her hard work and dedication to the role have benefited very many of our members.”

Paramdeep took up his role with the College on November 17 and will also continue to work as a visiting research fellow at the university and in private practice.

The College’s clinical advice service is offered to all of its members via phone and email and aims to support and guide members and inform the public and professionals, from all disciplines, on our professional guidance. Between October 2019 and September 2020 the clinical advisors responded to more than 1,400 enquiries.

ABDO's First Consultation Day online.

November 2020

Members logged in to ABDO’s first-ever online Consultation Day on Sunday 15 November. As well as the chance to hear an update from ABDO president, Jo Holmes FBDO, and general secretary, Sir Anthony Garrett CBE HonFBDO, members were able to submit questions prior to and during the event.

Following a welcome message from Jo Holmes, during which she praised both members and staff for the way they have managed and adapted working life and patient care during the Covid-19 pandemic, the president also updated members on CET opportunities, the new regional events coming online in the New Year, and progress on reviewing the ABDO Advice and Guidance section of the website.

Jo also announced the appointment of three new ABDO Benevolent Fund trustees: Keith Cavaye, Heather Hows and Lynda Matthias. "I’d like to welcome all three members whose life experiences and opinion will be greatly valued within the group," Jo said.

Tony Garrett talked members through the financial impact of Covid-19 on ABDO.

He went on to explain how ABDO was continuing to keep members informed about legal and regulatory changes throughout the devolved nations, with updated information available on the ABDO website's Covid-19 guidance section. ABDO has been able introduce a new management and leadership training course. The Association has also been in constant engagement with the General Optical Council over its Education Strategic Review (ESR), and other consultations.

There followed questions from members on topics including: how to respond to patients who refused to wear a mask; support for locums; adult safeguarding training; remote supervision of trainee contact lens opticians; the impact of the ESR; and mental health support for members.

Bringing the event to a close, Tony Garrett reminded members to make the most of ABDO's legal helpline service and the Benevolent Fund. Jo Holmes highlighted the fact that many positives had come out of the pandemic, and urged members to keep on doing what they did best. She said, "Look out for the public, and we will look out for you".

GOC suspends Leeds based student dispensing optician

November 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Haroon Amin, a student dispensing optician based in Leeds, from its register for twelve months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to undertake training impaired by reason of misconduct and conviction.

This is in relation to him copying and amending an essay of another student and submitting it as his own work. In addition, after receiving a conviction of dangerous driving, he was found to be acting dishonestly when sending an email to the GOC stating that a member of the GOC had visited his home and taken documents relating to his conviction, when he knew that no member of the GOC had done so.

Mr Haroon Amin had until 4 November 2020 to appeal his suspension.

CET grants, forms and payments reminders for the Professions

November 2020

•The CET claims window closes on 30 November 2020 and to allow sufficient time to ensure the application can be processed online
• PCSE reconfirms patients do not have so sign GOS forms until “at least” 31 March 2021, as part of measures to reduce the risk of infection
• PCSE asks practices to consider submitting paper claims on a weekly basis to aid processing during the lockdown period
• Average monthly payments are confirmed to continue to be paid to open practices which remain open in line with NHS England’s letter dated 26 October. However, because of the delay in the NHS confirming September arrangements, grant payments will be made retrospectively on your next GOS payment date. Read this PCSE bulletin for more detail

GOC suspends Leicester based optometrist Honey Rose

November 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) notes the decision of its independent Fitness to Practise Committee (FtPC) that the factual allegations it found proved against optometrist Honey Rose, of failing to carry out adequate internal eye examinations and record them accurately, amount to misconduct and “on the basis of the wider public interest, the registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.”

In their determination on sanction, the committee decided that Ms Rose should be suspended for a period of nine months. Ms Rose has until 9 December to appeal her suspension.

The Committee concluded: “A Suspension Order would be the appropriate sanction as it would send a clear signal to the Registrant, the profession and the public re-affirming the standards expected of a registered optometrist. The Committee was satisfied that a Suspension Order would adequately address the wider public interest.”

Decisions made by the FtPC are subject to review by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) under the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002. This gives the PSA powers to refer cases to the relevant court if it considers that the decision is not sufficient – whether as to a finding or a penalty or both – for the protection of the public. The GOC will therefore not be commenting further at this time.

The thoughts of everyone at the GOC are with the family of Vinnie Barker.

Further reflections from ABDO following GOC ESR Comments

November 2020

Following the latest Education Strategic Review (ESR) consultation, the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) has welcomed the General Optical Council (GOC)’s recognition that more detail about clinical knowledge and skills is required in the proposed outcomes for registration.

However, ABDO is calling for a rethink on the timetable for finalising the proposals, and the proposed move to a Single Point of Accountability (SPA) for each route to registration.

ABDO welcomes the change in position from the GOC, accepting ABDO’s argument that to ensure consistent, high standards, the draft outcomes for registration should be revised to provide more detail about the clinical skills and knowledge required of newly-qualified practitioners, with recognition of the distinct roles of dispensing opticians and optometrists.

ABDO also welcomes the GOC response to ABDO’s call for greater assurance that there will be consistency in the provision of education, recognising the need for ‘indicative documents’ that will provide additional information about the content of programmes leading to registration as a dispensing optician or optometrist. Requiring education providers to follow these indicative documents, or explain why they have not done so, will help to ensure consistent, high standards, while still allowing scope for innovation.

ABDO is also pleased by the GOC’s announcement at its recent council meeting that the initial draft research from the Quality Assurance Agency recommends the entry-level qualification for dispensing opticians should be at Level 6 on the relevant qualification frameworks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and at the equivalent Level 10 in Scotland. ABDO has long argued that the degree-level learning provided by its Level 6 Diploma in Ophthalmic Dispensing should continue to provide the benchmark for entry to the profession, particularly given the demand for dispensing opticians to expand their roles to help meet patients’ ever-expanding need for high-quality eye care.

However, ABDO continues to have a number of serious concerns about the GOC’s proposals and its planned approach.

First the GOC’s timetable is wholly unrealistic. The Council is intending to approve final versions of the outcomes for registration, standards for qualification providers and the quality assurance framework at its meeting on 10 February 2021 rather than in December 2020. This short delay is apparently to allow its two expert advisory groups (EAGs) to incorporate the feedback from the recent consultation, but this provides nowhere near sufficient time given the scale of work involved and other demands on the time of the EAGs’ members, particularly in light of the current pandemic.

Given the negative response to the GOC’s consultation and the substantial risks highlighted by the financial impact analysis commissioned by the GOC, addressing the issues raised is a lot more than ‘fine-tuning’:

• The GOC’s consultation report states that 53 per cent of respondents said the ESR proposals would have a negative impact on stakeholders, with 30 per cent highlighting risk for the public and patients, and only 18 per cent saying the impact would be positive.

• The financial impact analysis states that the ESR proposals are likely, if implemented as they stand:
o To bring additional costs to universities, colleges and practices;
o To prompt some providers, of optometry training and ophthalmic dispensing training, to question the ongoing viability of programmes;
o To make the provision of professional and clinical experience at some community practices less economically viable, unless universities provide payment; and
o To create unsustainable demands on education and placement providers if implemented in the timescales envisaged.

The GOC also needs to bear in mind that the members of the EAGs have volunteered to provide their expert advice on top of their other roles, which for many involves dealing with the myriad challenges of teaching and assessing students during the current pandemic.

Secondly, the GOC has failed to recognise the need for the revised outcomes for registration to be developed in parallel with the indicative documents that will provide more detailed information about course content.

The outcomes and indicative documents are mutually interdependent and must be developed in tandem, with particular involvement from the Opticians Academic Schools Council and the Optometry Schools Council. It would not be appropriate, therefore, for the Council to approve the outcomes before the indicative documents have been developed.

Thirdly, ABDO is surprised and disappointed that the GOC remains wedded to the idea of having a single point of accountability (SPA) for each route to registration. We note the GOC’s view that further work is needed in communicating the SPA concept, but this is not and never has been the issue.

The GOC’s stated aim – reiterated during the recent Council meeting – is to ensure that students gain professional and clinical experience which is integrated with their academic studies. Having a single point of accountability might be one way of achieving this outcome, but it is not the only way. For example:

o Nearly all student dispensing opticians work in practice from day one already, gaining valuable patient experience at the same time as studying.
o There are already optometry BSc (Hons) programmes which incorporate placements in practice and Masters programmes which provide a full range of clinical experience, with students having the option of choosing a programme which integrates the College’s scheme for registration.

The GOC has never explained firstly why a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is necessary; and secondly why it is unwilling to consider alternatives which could achieve the same aim and involve less upheaval, less expense, less risk and therefore, be implemented more efficiently.

While the SPA model may well have been used in other healthcare sectors, this does not automatically mean that it is appropriate for the optical sector, as opposed to healthcare sectors where the NHS plays a much greater role in organising and funding placements in, for example, hospital settings.

ABDO remains committed to working with the GOC to fulfil its aim of ensuring that student dispensing opticians and optometrists are educated to a high standard and prepared for the roles of the future. However, as we have said repeatedly, in order to secure broad support for whatever new system of education is introduced, the GOC must be able to show that it has assessed the costs, benefits and risks associated with not just its proposed new model, but with alternative models too.

News from General Optical Council meeting yesterday 11th November 2020

November 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) held its November Council meeting which considered the findings from the Education Strategic Review (ESR) consultation, changes as part of its Continuing Education and Training (CET) Review, and annual registration fees.

Annual fee 2021-22

Council agreed not to raise the annual registration fee for 2021-22 due to the uncertainty of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and registrants. The fee for fully qualified registrants and businesses will remain at £360, and at £30 for students.

In further recognition of the potential hardship caused by COVID-19 on lower earning registrants, Council also agreed to permanently increase the qualifying threshold for the low-income fee from £12k to £16k. Instead of only allowing applications for a low-income fee at the point of registering or renewing, applications will now be accepted at any point.

Education Strategic Review (ESR)

Council considered the outcome of the GOC consultation to update its education and training requirements from the latest ESR consultation, which ran from July to October 2020.

The consultation asked for feedback on three key proposals, which would replace the existing Quality Assurance Handbooks for optometry and dispensing optics – Outcomes for Registration, Standards for Approved Qualifications and Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method.

The Council agreed that the GOC’s Expert Advisory Groups (EAGs) should review and refine the proposals, including responding to concerns that the outcomes in the clinical practice categories required further development, whist retaining its high-level outcomes-orientated approach. It also agreed that further work was needed in communicating the concept of the single point of accountability.

Council agreed that the decision on approval will be taken in February 2021 to allow the two EAGs incorporate the feedback from consultation.

The draft ESR consultation report is available in the Council papers, along with the equality and diversity impact assessment and financial impact assessment. The final consultation report will be published shortly.

CET Review

Council discussed the findings from the latest CET consultation which ran from May to August 2020 and changes made to the proposals in light of feedback received. The proposals consulted on included:

• Changing the name from ‘CET’ to ‘CPD’,
• Replacing the standards of competence for education with the Standards of Practice,
• Introducing a mandatory reflective exercise for all registrants
• Revised domains of CPD to broaden its scope,
• Approving providers once they have demonstrated their ability to provide good quality CPD,
• A provider audit scheme which would target specific providers in response to registrant feedback and complaints.

Overall, the majority of registrants supported the proposals. However, some changes have been made to address concerns and suggestions raised through consultation feedback as follows:

• Extend peer review requirements to dispensing opticians, which was not part of the proposals but strongly supported by many respondents.
• Allow CPD that is less than one hour, but greater than half an hour, to be considered for fractional points
• Allow registrants to decide whether learning is relevant to their professional development instead of requiring non-approved CPD to be ‘designed for healthcare professionals’ in order to count towards a registrant’s points total.

Following agreement on the proposals, the GOC will consult on draft CET rules for registrants and providers for Council approval, alongside moving forward with necessary changes to the MyCET platform needed to implement them. In addition, details of the changes will be communicated with stakeholders in advance of their coming into effect at the start of the new cycle on 1 January 2022.

The CET consultation report is available in the Council papers.

College announces changes to Pre-Registraton Supervision Scheme

November 2020

The College have developed a new, more flexible and intuitive system for supervising pre-registration trainees, that continues to uphold the high standards of the Scheme for Registration.

The new supervision system will apply only to trainees who registered for the Scheme from 1 September 2020, and those 2019-20 trainees who are enrolled but have completed either no visits or visit one only. Trainees who are currently completing the Scheme will not have to change their supervision arrangements.

The changes were developed following a GOC consultation on supervision requirements. They will allow trainees to progress despite the challenges caused by COVID-19. It addresses the changes in practice and service delivery created by the pandemic, and ensures that we can uphold quality and patient safety.

Supervision types

Each trainee needs to have a principal supervisor. This must be an optometrist with at least two years continuous registration with the GOC. The principal supervisor has overall responsibility for a trainee’s supervision, and can supervise up to three trainees at a time. Trainees can also have additional supervisors. These replace the secondary and temporary supervisor roles.

A principal supervisor:

Is the registered supervisor for a trainee at the point that they register or enrol on the Scheme,
Takes overall responsibility for their trainee’s supervised practice
Manages all supervision arrangements for an individual trainee, including the safe, appropriate input of additional supervisors,
Can supervise up to three trainees (as long are no more than two of their trainees are at the same stage of the Scheme),
Can supervise for at least 50% of each trainee’s total practice time.

To become a principal supervisor, you must:

Be a fully-qualified optometrist with at least two years’ continuous registration with the GOC
Be a College member,
Have completed the College’s introduction to supervision course,
Have agreed to and signed the College’s supervisor terms and conditions.

Joint principal supervisors

Two optometrists who meet the criteria above can share the role of principal supervisor equally (50% of supervision time) for one trainee. Both principal supervisors must register with the College when the trainee registers or enrols.

Additional supervisors are regulated eye health practitioners, with at least two years’ post-qualification experience, who can contribute to a trainee’s supervision.

These could include optometrists, dispensing opticians, contact lens opticians, orthoptists, ophthalmic nurses and ophthalmologists. This will allow greater flexibility, and use the skills, expertise, and experience of colleagues from across the eye care sector.

Principal supervisors retain overall responsibility for ensuring that additional supervision is appropriate.

Additional supervisors who are not optometrists only have clinical responsibility for a specific activity, for example, a dispensing optician supervising dispensing. They will not need to be formally registered with the College. Trainees will record the names and registration details of additional supervisors in their logbook with sign-off from their principal supervisor. College assessors will also check these arrangements.

Additional supervisors replace temporary and secondary supervisors, and must:

Be an eye care professional, with at least two years’ continuous registration with the relevant regulator,
Be sufficiently qualified, experienced and current in their scope of practice to undertake the functions they are supervising
Comply with the GOC’s code of conduct, and/or equivalent regulator conduct standards, in their professional practice
Be a College member, if they are an optometrist
Be in a position to oversee the work undertaken by the trainee, and intervene, if required, to maintain patient safety
Comply with all legal requirements relating to the activity that they are supervising.

Principal supervisors are responsible for ensuring that additional supervisors fulfil the above criteria.

Financial support extended for locums

November 2020

The self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) has been extended in the form of two further grants.

HMRC has confirmed this will cover November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021.

The grant will now be based on 80% of average monthly trading profits, with a maximum three-month grant of £7,500.

This amounts to a maximum of £2,500 per month, to provide the same level of support as the CJRS.

Eligibility criteria for the grant remains unchanged.

The HMRC is to publish more details on the next claims window in due course

Eye care under national lockdown

November 2020

PM Encourages the Public to keep using NHS for health checks and scans despite 2nd Lockdown

In line with the PM’s advice to make use of the NHS during the next Covid Lockdown that GOC has published the following statement.

Following the Government’s announcement on 31 October 2020, new national restrictions will come into effect in England on Thursday 5 November.

The Government has produced some initial guidance on the national restrictions for England which registrants are encouraged to read.

It is the GOC's understanding that optical practices will be able to remain open in England as they would fall under the exemption of delivering NHS/medical services.

A full list of non-essential businesses that must close and those that have exemptions will be published shortly by the Government. See the list here

The College of Optometrists is currently recommending that all practices remain open to provide services and continue to follow their amber guidance during this period.
Our COVID-19 statements still remain in effect to support delivery of care and further advice can also be sought from the professional associations:

FODO and ABDO have both concurred

FODO: Primary eye care remains an essential service and Opticians premises (classified as essential retail) will be able to meet the nation’s eye health needs throughout the November lockdown. Members should continue to follow the College of Optometrists Covid-19 guidance and use our Covid-19 resource hub for support and advice on working in a Covid-secure way.

ABDO: In relation to discussions taking place throughout the UK on the provision of eye health care in the event of local or national lockdown, it is the Association of British Dispensing Opticians' (ABDO) intention to maintain delivery of all eye health care.

ABDO adds that they understand the risk regarding reduced patient footfall due to further lockdowns and we will be liaising with all governments and representative bodies to look at options in relation to support for practices going forward.

Additional Info

Temporary approval to suspend the need for signatures on ophthalmic forms

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has approved a temporary measure in England to help limit the transmission of coronavirus by suspending the need for patients to sign GOS forms for five months to 31 March 2021.

GOS contractors will have to complete the relevant GOS form(s) on behalf of the patient. Patients should be asked to confirm their eligibility and for that to be marked on the relevant form. Practices should continue to ask patients to produce evidence of entitlement and should mark the form ‘evidence not seen’ if a patient does not produce this. Where patients should sign forms, contractors are asked to annotate the form with ‘COVID-19’. Signatures from contractors/performers are still required on all forms

Scottish eye care services up for review

October 2020

Optometry Scotland has formed a working group to review the performance of the nation’s community eye care services and look at ways to improve the service.

The group will assess the achievements of Scotland’s universal entitlement for free eye care and how optometry services were delivered before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Julie Mosgrove, chair of the working group and vice-chair of Optometry Scotland told the "Optician": “The objective of the working group is to further advance the first-class work of the optometry sector in Scotland, which is widely recognised for the crucial role it plays in the prevention agenda through the early detection of associated conditions and reducing the burden on hard-pressed hospital services.”

GOC suspends London based optometrist

October 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Malti Amin, an optometrist based in London, from its register for twelve months.

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

This is in relation to conducting unauthorised sales and refund transactions using her personal credit and debit cards.

Ms Amin has until 27 October 2020 to appeal her suspension.

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.

BABO Responds to the GOC EDUCATION STRATEGIC REVIEW (ESR)

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 (https://www.covd.org/page/CITT).

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.

AAOF announces the 2020 JOHNSON & JOHNSON VISION J. PAT CUMMINGS SCHOLARSHIPS

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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