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Opchat Magazine Professional Matters PagesProfessional Matters News, April to June 2021

Optometry/Dispensing


New procurement guidance – England
Use of Chloramphenicol POM in paediatric populations
Irish Optometrists call for new Contract for Public eye-care
GOC publishes response to COVID-19 statements consultation
Adam Sampson announced as new AOP Chief Executive
EeRS forges ahead in 4 test areas provided by NHSX in England
GOC erases Plymouth based student optometrist
PCSE shares information on online upgrades in bulletin
GOC suspends Nuneaton based optometrist
GOC erases Norwich based dispensing optician
New AOP Council announced
Optometry Wales Chair to stand down and take up General Optical Council role
Key Webinar by Westminster Health on future regulation of Healthcare
GOC suspends Glasgow based optometrist
GOC suspends Cheltenham based optometrist
NHS funded PPE extended until end of March 2022
GOC erases Cardiff based dispensing optician
General Optical Council ( GOC) shares insights from public perceptions research
New OFNC Chair confirms course for the coming year.
GOC welcomes the Professional Standards Authority Performance Review
GOC itself feels the shadow of inspection on its regulatory roles by Department of Health and Social Care
What will the first sweeping changes to NHS and eye care provision create from the White Paper?
Archived Professional Matters January to March 2021


New procurement guidance – England

June 2021

New government guidance for England – which will apply to NHS trusts – requires public bodies to consider “the wider benefits of spending public money” as part of any procurement process.

The government said the guidance means “procurement teams have been told they must not simply award contracts to the lowest bidder – especially when wider economic benefits can be proved”.

The Procurement Policy Note 05/21 states that contracting authorities should consider the following national priority outcomes alongside any local priorities:
• Creating new businesses, jobs and skills
• Tackling climate change and reducing waste
• Improving supplier diversity, innovation and resilience.
It adds that public procurement “should be leveraged to support priority national and local outcomes for the public benefit”. Policy Note 05/21 includes NHS bodies and “is intended to cover the period from date of publication to the end of the current parliament” but will be in place until it is “withdrawn, amended or replaced”.

Had a measure like his been in place which it will be as the CCG transforms into the ICS one wonders what might have been the consequences for Croydon LOC in its losing battle for providing localised tried and trusted services to its community?

Use of Chloramphenicol POM in paediatric populations

June 2021

The College's position on the use of Chloramphenicol POM in paediatric populations

The College previously alerted members (12/04/21) after becoming aware of a change in posology in the summary of product characteristics (SPC) by some manufacturers for the prescription-only medicine (POM) form of chloramphenicol eye drops. These manufacturers have added the following contraindication:

“This medicinal product must not be given to a child less than 2 years old as it contains boron and may impair fertility in the future.”

Please note, this does not apply to the ointment form as it does not contain boron-based excipients.

At that time, the College advised that the use of chloramphenicol POM multi-dose and minim form eye drops should not be used in children under 2 years of age based on a precautionary principle of safeguarding patients while we review the evidence. Since then we have been in contact with the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and they have reviewed the available evidence and advice from relevant bodies regarding the use of chloramphenicol in paediatric populations.

The MHRA and Royal Pharmaceutical Society have explained that data from toxicity studies in rats has identified testicular toxicity associated with boron-containing compounds. In light of this evidence, The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended upper limits to the daily exposure to boron-based excipients (expressed as equivalent doses of elemental boron) with a limit of 1mg/day for children under 2 and 3mg/day for children aged 2-121. In response, many manufacturers of chloramphenicol POM eye drops have changed their SPCs due to product labelling guidelines by the European Commission2.

The College’s position

Having reviewed the evidence and a recent statement by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists3, we do not believe that chloramphenicol POM eye drops pose a direct risk for the indicated use in children if used to its product license - there are several points that the College has considered:

Where manufacturers do specify the amount of boron-based excipients in their SPC, it is in the range of 1.1-2.9mg/ml. Given that the maximum volume of an eye drop that can be accommodated by the conjunctival sac is approximately 10-20µL; assuming even 100% absorption by the eye and a typical four times daily application, this is well below the 1mg/day limit

There is no new scientific data from human studies that document any adverse effects on fertility despite it being widely used in children of all ages for over 70 years

There may be circumstances where chloramphenicol eye drops may be preferable to use over the ointment form

There may be no suitable alternative medicine that would meet the child’s needs, as other antibiotics may also contain boron-based excipients or have a narrower spectrum of activity

Use of stronger antibiotics should be reserved for severe eye infections, not for superficial conditions such as bacterial conjunctivitis

Avoiding antibiotics that contain boron-based excipients would result in routine prescribing of stronger antibiotics. This would encourage development of antibiotic resistance and render them less effective against severe eye infections

Prescribing antibiotics for children under 2 by optometrists is rare, but as with all prescribing decisions, this should be done on a case by case basis of risk versus benefit. Given the currently available evidence and advice from relevant bodies, the EMA limits on boron exposure are unlikely to be exceeded with typical prescribing regimens. We have reviewed our earlier advice and now recommend that optometrist prescribers should consider prescribing chloramphenicol POM eye drops for use in children under 2 years if they believe the benefits (when prescribed according to its product license) outweigh the theoretical risk to future fertility posed by boron exposure. This is in line with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists view on the use of chloramphenicol3.

The College will continue to liaise with the MHRA on this matter to ensure that advice given to members is up to date, proportionate and supports safe clinical practice.

Irish Optometrists call for new Contract for Public eye-care

May 2021

Optometrists seek to reduce waiting times for eye-care

Irish Optometrists have called for a new contract with the HSE to provide enhanced public eye-care and cut excessive waiting times for patients.

The Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) called for an increase in community-based eye-care in line other countries across Europe – and said that its existing contract for public eye-care is not fit for purpose.

AOI President John Weldon said AOI’s contract with the HSE dates back to 1999 and the approach to care, scope of practise, training and equipment have changed radically over more than twenty years. He said there is significant untapped potential among Optometrists to reduce the capacity shortfall and an up to date contract would provide opportunities to deliver better outcomes for patients.

“National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) Waiting List figures to the end of April 2021 show more than 40,000 on the outpatient eye-care waiting list and 7,300 on the inpatient waiting list.

“Optometrists are today calling on the Department of Health and HSE and to engage with the profession and develop a new contract which takes advantage of opportunities for more responsive patient care. There is an ongoing reluctance among health service decision makers to better utilise Optometrists. A greater focus needs to be on what will deliver for patients.

“There are 300 Optometry practices and 700 practitioners in every locality of the country and they have capacity to provide much needed care. Meanwhile, our citizens can wait many years to be seen for Cataract.

“There have been major changes in Optometry over the past 20 years. The techniques have changed, equipment and technology have transformed. An eye examination is very different from what it once was. Treatments and patient pathways have evolved.

“A fit for purpose contract would provide an opportunity to untap capacity and address the following issues:

• Use of Sligo model to alleviate Cataract treatment delays
• National Roll out of a Children’s Eye-care Programme
• Increased right to prescribe certain eye medications.
• Up to date agreements on the Medical card scheme.”

In conclusion Mr Weldon said: “An analysis carried out by AOI found that these changes can be delivered with minimal cost, or even with overall cost savings.”

AOI has raised these issues directly with the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and with HSE CEO Paul Reid and is awaiting any progress.

GOC publishes response to COVID-19 statements consultation

June 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published its response to its COVID-19 statements consultation, alongside a set of updated statements.

The statements will now all be aligned to The College of Optometrists’ red-amber-green classification system, which outlines the various phases of the pandemic-based risk and restrictions in place.

The GOC aligned with this system in order to reduce the number of different reference points for registrants and to ensure that its expectations can be more clearly linked to the guidance being offered by the professional associations. Each statement is clearly marked at the top with the phase in which it applies.

All of the statements were reviewed and updated following the analysis of the consultation responses and registrants have been provided with a summary of the amendments. The GOC will update its COVID-19 webpage to archive older versions of the statements and the statements that no longer apply so they can be used as a reference point.

The majority of statements will take effect from 21 June 2021 to allow registrants time to prepare, with the exception of the four statements that relate to the internal GOC functions of Education, CET, Fitness to Practise and Registration, which will take effect from 28 May 2021. The effective date is clearly marked on the statements.

Marcus Dye, GOC Acting Director of Strategy, said: “We would like to thank everyone that responded to our COVID-19 statements consultation. The responses helped us to ensure that our statements continue to support registrants in delivering patient care effectively during the pandemic.

As we move out of the more restrictive lockdown measures we have been in and more of our staff return to the office, we will now only be serving statutory notices electronically where we have consent from the registrant to do so.

We will continue to take the consultation feedback into account as we reflect on our response to COVID-19 and any further guidance that might be required to assist registrants delivering patient care in the future.”

Read the GOC’s consultation response and updated statements on the COVID-19 page.

Adam Sampson announced as new AOP Chief Executive

May 2021

The Board of the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is pleased to announce the appointment of Adam Sampson as Chief Executive. Adam will succeed Henrietta Alderman, who has been in post since 2013, on 14 June 2021.

Adam Sampson at AOP Adam’s last role was as Chief Executive of St Elizabeth’s Hospice, where he led on its transformation. Prior to this, Adam was Chief Executive of UK charity, Shelter, before moving into a new national role as the inaugural CEO of the Legal Ombudsman, setting up and shaping it until his departure in 2015.

Mike George, AOP Chairman, said: “Adam has a strong background in leading organisations at the vanguard of social change and public policy. Adam spent three months as an interim CEO of the General Optical Council (GOC), so he has gained insight into the complex landscape of optometry and dispensing optics.

“The fact that this role demands an external focus and the ability to navigate across a complex stakeholder landscape in a changing sector really appeals to him, and we believe his experience in this area is ideal for the role of Chief Executive at the AOP.

“I would like to thank Henrietta Alderman for her outstanding contribution to the AOP. We wish her the very best for her retirement.”

Adam Sampson said: “As I know from my time at the GOC, optometrists play a critical role in maintaining the nation’s eye health. The AOP is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists and I look forward to leading the association in its vitally important mission of helping to shape the future of the optical profession.”

EeRS forges ahead in 4 test areas provided by NHSX in England

May 2021

First contracts awarded as eye care electronic e-referral management and image sharing service (EeRS) forges ahead NHSX and NHS England and Improvement’s EeRS programme is entering an exciting new phase as regions begin implementation of electronic eye care referral systems. The roll out comes thanks to original capital funding of £7million from
NHSX earlier this year.

Mounting pressures in hospital eye services, exacerbated by the pandemic, have led to a natural ambition to make better use of high street optometrists, so more patients can be seen closer to home and capacity is released in hospital-led services. Through EeRS, we can send referrals and images more efficiently, communicate more quickly with hospitals and provide more eye care services locally directly to patients.

Since December, the EeRS programme has scaled up at pace across England. Five suppliers are now in the process of delivering EeRS solutions across four regions, with procurements ongoing across the rest of the country including the Midlands, North West, North East and Yorkshire regions.

This will bring us close to covering 40 million of England’s population by the end of the calendar year

GOC erases Plymouth based student optometrist

May 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Bella Reid, a student optometrist based in Plymouth, from its register.

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

This is in relation to her forging her supervisor’s signature on her practice placement workbook to confirm that she had attended the last day of her placement.

Ms Reid has until 19 May 2021 to appeal her erasure.

PCSE shares information on online upgrades in bulletin

May 2021

The PCSE Team wanted to share a number of updates with you relating to the Ophthalmic Payments service from PCSE.

PCSE Online system enhancements

We’ve been listening to your feedback about the online claims system slowing down later on in the afternoons and we’re putting in a number of technical enhancements which should prevent the issues you’ve been experiencing. These will be deployed on Thursday 13 May and will also address the intermittent error with accessing statements.

Important note - Maintenance windows affecting access

There are two general maintenance windows and one major service deployment window scheduled for this month which will impact PCSE Online users being able to submit online claims during this time (please see next section on business continuity to understand how to submit online claims after these downtimes):

Please note these General maintenance window dates:

Sunday 9 May from 5pm until midnight (Technical fixes)
Thursday 13 May from 7pm until midnight (System enhancements)

Major service deployment window:

PCSE Online will be unavailable from 7pm on Friday 28 May until 10am Sunday 30 May. This is to enable the launch of a major new Payments and Pensions service for the GP sector. Further information will be provided on this in the coming weeks.
We appreciate this will cause disruption, but we have provided the following business continuity guidance to understand how best to submit claims generated during this time.

Business Continuity Guidance for online GOS

PCSE and NHSEI have published Business Continuity Guidance for Ophthalmic Contractors to ensure General Ophthalmic Services can continue when PCSE Online is unavailable, such as during system maintenance downtimes.

It’s important that all practice staff are familiar with the guidance available here.

Please take note of the additional advice relating to Performer Declarations for the major service deployment window at the end of May as mentioned above. Extra discretion has been agreed with NHSEI whilst the system is not available.

Update: Reducing rejected paper GOS claims

We know that there have been a number of issues with the rejection of forms in the new paper scanning process. We’re sorry for the impact these issues have caused contractors using paper claims and thank you for your patience.

We’re taking the following steps to address the underlying issues and reduce any financial impact on businesses and move contractors online:

We recently contacted anyone who had a significant percentage of GOS paper claims returned to outline the financial support arrangements we have put in place in agreement with NHS England and NHS Improvement.

In the meantime, we have introduced new manual quality checking systems to ensure that paper forms do not get incorrectly rejected and we are working with our scanning partner to introduce improvements to the solution as quickly as possible.

We’ve also provided additional support materials to help practice staff complete paper forms correctly. In addition to the video guides and top tips on completing paper forms we shared earlier in the year, we have produced a desk aid that can be printed off for staff to refer to which you can access here.

We’re proactively contacting all contractors who use paper forms to offer guidance to help them make the move to join the 90% of contractors who are now submitting online claims.

If we haven’t contacted you yet and you would like some support with switching to online submissions please get in touch with us at pcse.optomengagement@nhs.net

Submitting Pre-Registration Training Grant Claims

We wanted to update you on how to submit a pre-registration supervisor training grant. If you’re an ophthalmic contractor who is providing supervision of the training of a pre-registration optometrist, you should complete the new claim form which now requires your practice ODS code, and submit it as an attachment via https://pcse.england.nhs.uk/contact-us/

The allowance paid to contractors is set out by the Department of Health on an annual basis, and PCSE processes these claims on behalf of NHS England.

It was recently announced that the allowance would be increased to £3,762, which applies to claims from trainers taking on pre-registration trainees on or after 1 April 2021. The rate for claims in respect of trainees who started before 1 April 2021 is £3,692.

This month we will start processing training grants via the new system and the payment will appear on your PCSE Online statement.

It’s important that the form is filled in correctly so please be aware that you must:

• Click ‘Yes’ in the option shown (see our example online )so the claim follows the correct process
• Add your 5-character ODS code as this is the key identifier for the claim to be paid.

If you do not know the ODS code for your practice you can visit the ODS Portal and enter the name or postcode of your practice.

Issuing a GOS 3

We want to remind you that you must print a GOS 3 voucher from PCSE Online to give to a patient to take to another practice. You must do this to comply with the regulations.

Unfortunately, you must not just give the patient the voucher code and authorisation code. A PDF of the GOS 3 form must be printed if the patient wants to take their voucher for dispensing elsewhere.

You can find out more information about how to do this by reading our helpful guide.

Old style paper claims

Please note that the Open Exeter system used for processing old paper claims is due to be decommissioned at the end of July which means if you’ve got any old style claims i.e. for sight tests conducted before 1 February 2021, you must submit these as soon as possible so we can get them processed and paid.

Here are some useful links from the bulletin:

GOC suspends Nuneaton based optometrist

May 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Fazeela Makda, an optometrist based in Nuneaton, from its register for six months.

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

This is in relation to accessing records without clinical justification and making amendments to the records without examining the patients. Ms Makda admitted that her actions were dishonest.

Ms Makda has until 11 May 2021 to appeal her suspension.

GOC erases Norwich based dispensing optician

May 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Jeremy Simeons, a dispensing optician based in Norwich, from its register.

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

This is in relation to him being convicted of sexual assault of a child under the age of 13, contrary to section 7(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Mr Simeons has not lodged an appeal against the decision and is now erased from the Register.

New AOP Council announced

May 2021

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is pleased to announce its new Council representatives.

Henrietta Alderman, AOP Chief Executive, said: “I’m delighted to be welcoming our new Council, in a new structure designed to represent the full range of our membership. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen tremendous commitment from optometrists to provide eye care. This election is yet another example of that dedication, with more members stepping forward and participating in the process than in previous years.”

Ms Alderman continued: “I would like to sincerely thank our current and departing Councillors for all their hard work in very exceptional circumstances.”

Incoming Chair of AOP Council, Julie-Anne Little said: “It’s great to see such enthusiasm in the profession to share experiences and tackle issues together. The new structure also offers a different dynamic with an increased number of posts that reflect the diverse roles of our members.”

New Councillor, Kris Cottier, who will be the first to serve in the role for Locum optometrists, said: “I am humbled to be appointed to the AOP council to be the voice of freelance and locum optometrists. The past year has been a challenge to the profession in general and I welcome the opportunity to highlight the ongoing challenges of freelance and locum work.”
AOP Councillors will begin their terms of office on 9 June 2021. The full list can be found at www.aop.org.uk/elections
Newly elected and appointed Council members:

Councillor  Representing  
James Brawn Wales
Jagdeep Kaur Gill London 
Rachel Hiscox South East England
Kamaljit Kalsi Wales 
Stephanie Kearney Scotland
Inderpal Ghuman Undergraduate student optometrists
Luke McRoy-Jones            Pre-registration optometrists
Phillip Buckhurst University lecturers (nominated by the Optometry Schools Council) 
Ali Yasen Newly-qualified & early career optometrists
Kris Cottier Locum optometrists
Paul Chapman-Hatchett Domiciliary care optometrists
Fatima Nawaz Independent prescribing optometrists
Jasmine Kaur Matharu Hospital optometrists
Kevin Thompson               Directors of independent practices
Josephine Evans                Employees of independent practices
Mehul Patel Directors of multiple practices
Karan Vyas Employees of multiple practices

The AOP Council elections took place between 12 March and 26 March 2021. AOP members were invited to vote in the seven constituencies where there were more candidates than vacancies: Scotland, North West England, East Midlands, West Midlands, London, South East England, and Yorkshire and the Humber.
The AOP Board appointed other Councillors to represent different sectors of the membership. In 2021 for the first time this includes Councillors representing directors of independent practices, directors of multiple practices, domiciliary care optometrists, employees of independent practices, employees of multiple practices, independent prescribing optometrists and locum optometrists.

Optometry Wales Chair to stand down and take up General Optical Council role

May 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has appointed Lisa Gerson as a new registrant member to its Council.

Lisa, a qualified optometrist, joins the GOC after more than two years as Chair of Optometry Wales.

Lisa, who lives in Cardiff, Wales, will begin her term on 1 May 2021, replacing Helen Tilley whose tenure ends on 30 April 2021. Lisa has significant experience in optometric regulation with the GOC, previously serving as a registrant member of the fitness to practise panel, member and Acting Chair of the Investigation Committee, as well as being a member of the Education Visitor Panel.

Lisa currently supervises student clinics at Cardiff University, and has more than thirty years’ experience of working in optometry in Wales, having worked in both independent and larger multiple practices for most of her professional career.

During her tenure at Optometry Wales, Lisa has implemented substantive changes to the governance of the Board, overseen the formation of the newly incorporated Regional Optical Committees (ROCs), and initial contract reform modelling during a turbulent time for the profession grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Anne Wright CBE, GOC Chair of Council, said: “I am delighted to welcome Lisa to the GOC. I am confident that Lisa will bring a wealth of skills and experience to Council, along with insight into the optical sector in Wales. Lisa will be a tremendous asset to the GOC and will bolster the work that our Council undertakes to shape our future strategic direction.”

Sali Davis, CEO of Optometry Wales, commented: “Lisa has demonstrated strong commitment and integrity in the way that she has revolutionised the way that Optometry Wales conducted itself with a new, diverse and more inclusive approach to Chairmanship.

“Lisa’s skillset will be a complement to the work of our Regulator, and Lisa managed with skill and expertise to navigate Optometry Wales through the last 12 months, to steer us towards a very bright future.”

Key Webinar by Westminster Health on future regulation of Healthcare

April 2021

The future of professional healthcare regulation reform - efficiency, scope, safety, and the impact of the pandemic on the future regulatory landscape

Morning, Tuesday, 11th May 2021

Speakers include

Professor Tim Briggs, Chair, GIRFT and National Director for Clinical Improvement, NHS England
Alan Clamp, Chief Executive, Professional Standards Authority
Professor Sheona MacLeod, Deputy Medical Director for Education Reform, Health Education England
Charlie Massey, Chief Executive, General Medical Council
and John Barwick, Health and Care Professionals Council; Denise Chaffer, NHS Resolution; Dr Clea Harmer, Sands; Dr Robert Hendry, Medical Protection Society; Matthew Lee, MDU; Kathryn Sheridan, Kingsley Napley; Clare Strickland, Nursing and Midwifery Council; Dr Jenny Vaughan, The Doctors Association; and Peter Walsh, Action Against Medical Accidents and others

It focuses on the next steps for professional healthcare regulation, as the Department of Health and Social Care consults on proposals for reforming and modernising the framework.

Delegates will discuss proposals in the Government’s Health and Social Care White Paper for new powers around professional regulation and the themes surrounding the DHSC Regulating healthcare professionals, protecting the public consultation - such as:

• the possible removal of professions from regulation
• opening up options for streamlining and reducing regulatory duplication
• inclusion of senior managers and leaders within the scope of future regulation
• introducing flexibility into the governance framework to support changing needs
• understanding the priorities for education and training, and improving patient safety

The conference will look at these proposals, and wider measures that can be taken to tackle inefficiencies in the regulatory system, as well as priorities for reform in the context of the regulatory response to the pandemic.

Key areas for discussion:

• priorities for regulatory system reform - achieving the efficiencies and adaptability required, and its wider role in Government efforts to improve efficiency and integration within health and care
• assessing how regulation responded to the pandemic - the key lessons learned, and how the pandemic has shaped the future regulatory landscape
• how regulatory processes can keep pace with developments and challenges around the workforce, wellbeing, patient safety, education and training, and leadership accountability

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials - including those who have already booked on to attend from the Care Quality Commission; the Department of Health, NI; the Department of Health (ROI); the DHSC; the Government Legal Department; the HSE; the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee; The Scottish Government; and the States of Guernsey.

Bookinghttps://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/book/healthcare-Reg-21

GOC suspends Glasgow based optometrist

April 2021

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

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

This is in relation to amending patient records which did not reflect an accurate account of the patient’s appointment.

Mr Little has until 6 May 2021 to appeal his suspension.

GOC suspends Cheltenham based optometrist

April 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Ariana Faderani, an optometrist based in Cheltenham, 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 her falsifying sight test records to inflate her sales figures and related bonus and deceiving her employer by using study days for recreational travel.

Ms Faderani has until 29 April 2021 to appeal her suspension

NHS funded PPE extended until end of March 2022

April 2021

In England, the Department of Health and Social Care will continue to fund PPE for opticians until 31 March 2022.

NHS England said that clinical experts expected usage would “remain high throughout the next financial year”.

PPE will continue to be provided through the existing portal or other agreed distribution channels.

GOC erases Cardiff based dispensing optician

April 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Lee Purdy, a dispensing optician based in Cardiff, Wales, from its register.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct and health. This is in relation to processing false transactions and removing cash from the till for his own personal use.

Mr Purdy has until 16 April 2021 to appeal his erasure, during which time he is suspended from the register under an immediate suspension order.

General Optical Council ( GOC) shares insights from public perceptions research

April 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published its 2021 public perceptions research, which seeks to understand the public’s views and experiences of opticians across the UK.

Over 2,000 members of the public responded to an online survey as part of the research. Some key findings include:

• 96 percent of respondents were satisfied with their last opticians visit overall.
• 94 percent of respondents remain confident in the standard of care provided by opticians remains high, and is higher than that for doctors, dentists and pharmacists.
• 97 percent said they were satisfied with the measures that were in place during their last optician visit to protect them from coronavirus.
• A new high of 30 percent of respondents said they would speak to an optician first if they woke up with an eye problem, representing an 11-percentage point increase since 2015.
• Over a third of respondents (35%) said they perceive opticians to be solely a healthcare service, which has increased by 4-percentage points since 2019.

The term ‘opticians’ was used throughout the research to avoid confusion on the assumption that the public do not clearly distinguish between ‘optometrists’ and ‘dispensing opticians’, although questions about the understanding of these terms were included as part of the research.

Marcus Dye, GOC Acting Director of Strategy, said: “We’re extremely pleased to see that confidence in the professions remains high, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’d like to thank our registrants for their hard work during these difficult times to ensure the public could still receive eye care and feel safe doing so.

It’s also positive to see that the perception of opticians as a healthcare service has increased to over a third, and more respondents than ever say they would speak to an optician first if they had an eye problem. We look forward to continuing to see these numbers increase and we hope registrants and the wider sector will find the report to be helpful in improving optical care practice.”

The survey was carried out by M·E·L Research and was conducted online and distributed to a UK consumer panel, which includes members of the public who have signed up to take part in online research on a wide number of topics.

The research forms part of the GOC’s ‘Fit for the Future’ strategic plan for 2020-25, and will be used to inform its work in transforming customer service and future policy and research activities.

The GOC has published five public perceptions reports since this research began in 2015. The full report is available on the GOC website.

New OFNC Chair confirms course for the coming year.

April 2021

The incoming Chair of the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee, Gordon Ilett, has thanked outgoing Chair Paul Carroll for the leadership he has provided throughout the COVID-19 crisis. He confirmed that the OFNC’s top priorities for the coming year would continue to be supporting the optical sector through the pandemic, and pressing for a fairer level of GOS sight test fee and grants.

Paul Carroll said: “As always, OFNC is a collective effort of very able people and it has been a privilege to lead the team. This has been the year where, backed by the tremendous effort and support of the whole sector, we have been able to demonstrate our vital importance to the nation’s eye health. I wish Gordon every success in his role as Chair and helping us secure fairer funding for the essential public health service we provide.”

Gordon Ilett said: “Like Paul I have worked at the sharp end owning my own optical practice for over 30 years. I know how challenging the last year has been for everyone in the sector. GOS contractors throughout England have worked incredibly hard to keep providing care to their patients, even in the early stages of the pandemic when remote care was key in the absence of PPE. Even now some practices are still facing financial challenges because of the restrictions introduced at the start of 2021, and we will keep making the case for additional targeted support where necessary. We encourage GOS contractors to keep us informed of the challenges they are facing.”

“It is also a top priority for the OFNC to keep pushing for a proper increase to the GOS sight test fee, which has been so badly eroded by rising costs and inflation in recent years. The 1.9% increase that has recently been announced for 2021/22 is a start, but much more is needed. Maintaining patient services and achieving fairer, evidence-based, fees will remain our focus as, once again, the NHS reorganises around us.”

GOC welcomes the Professional Standards Authority Performance Review

April 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) welcomes the publication of the Professional Standards Authority’s (PSA) annual performance review for 2019/20. The GOC has met 16 of the 18 Standards of Good Regulation.

The review, which assessed performance between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2020, was satisfied that the GOC met all of the relevant standards for General Standards, Guidance and Standards, and Education and Training. However, they did not satisfy all of the Standards for Registration (Standard 10) or Fitness to Practise (Standard 15).

The PSA noted that although the GOC did not meet Standard 10, due to errors found in the register, the issues were quickly addressed in each case and the appropriate course of action was followed to correct the register and change its processes.

It was observed that the GOC is implementing an improvement plan to address the issues of timeliness in its fitness to practise processes.

This commitment to improve is outlined within the GOC Strategic Plan for 2020-25, which includes the development of an improved case management system and a modernisation of its processes.

The PSA also praised the GOC for its response to the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 pandemic. It noted that guidance was issued for registrants and businesses in a variety of areas, as well as consulting ‘quickly and constructively’ with key stakeholders to make the necessary changes to core activities, such as using technology to hold remote fitness to practise hearings.

Lesley Longstone, GOC Chief Executive and Registrar, said: “We welcome the outcome of the PSA report and are pleased to have met the majority of the Standards, particularly in light of the challenges we have all faced during COVID-19.

“It is heartening to note that the efforts made to adapt to the COVID-19 emergency have not gone unnoticed. We moved as quickly as we could to release a number of statements to help support our registrants throughout the pandemic and clarify certain areas of practice to protect public safety, as well as outlining the amendments to our regulatory functions.

“We are aware that there is still work to be done to improve the timeliness of our fitness to practise cases and have been working to implement our improvement plan, in line with our ‘Fit for the Future’ Strategic Plan for 2020-25. A new triage process has been introduced to ensure that we are only investigating cases where there is a genuine fitness to practice concern, which has helped to reduce the number of cases entering the system unnecessarily.

“The accuracy of our registers is a fundamental part of our duty to protect the public. Although the errors noted were resolved in good time, we will be taking on board the feedback that we have received from the PSA to ensure that we are continuously improving and on track to delivering world-class regulatory practice.”

Read the full review on the Professional Standards Authority’s website.

GOC itself feels the shadow of inspection on its regulatory roles by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)

March 2021

As it (DHSC) published last week a consultation on Regulating Health Care Professionals, Protecting the Public.

The reforms cover four broad areas – governance and operating framework, education and training, registration, and fitness to practise (FTP).

The consultation also sets out “next steps for the reform of professional regulation” to follow this consultation.

The consultation notes that:

• Any changes to regulating businesses “will be considered and consulted on when our reforms are delivered into that regulator’s legislation”.

• “The GOC is the only regulator which holds a student register”. The proposal is to “remove any powers or duties for regulators to hold a register of students”, which includes “removing the duty on the GOC to hold a student register”

• There is a general preference to move to a unitary board structure.
The government also intends to:

• “Commission a review of the professions that are currently regulated in the UK, to consider whether statutory regulation remains appropriate for these professions”

• “Commission an independent review of the number of regulators.”

The GOC response was that they welcomed this consultation and the aim to give all health and social care regulators broadly equivalent powers in order to maintain a level of consistency and effective public protection.

They think that removing overly prescriptive, complex and rigid legislative frameworks will allow regulators greater freedom to respond to future challenges, such as COVID-19, in a quicker and more effective way. They also note the intention to commission a review of the overall number of regulators and regulated professions.

They welcomed the fact that this is being taken forward by an independent party and look forward to feeding in our views.

They did not address the possible removal of the student register but no doubt will in due course.

What will the first sweeping changes to NHS and eye care provision create from the White Paper?

March 2021

Integration and Innovation, the white paper in February is the first serious attempt to reform the Lansley reforms of 2012.

The reforms would allow government to transfer functions at arm's length without primary legislation. So even robust bodies like the CQC and NICE could feel the wind of change or even be closed down.

However the pandemic has shown that intra professional working has proven to bring swifter and in the main harmonious new working practices and pathways often involving cross party actions over a span including primary, secondary and yes even social care.

If these successful actions are the drivers for change then the Integrated Care Systems (ICS) that have been influential in these moves will be heralded as the way forward and may make way for easier negotiations in primary care pathways. That is a hope but the devil is in the detail and only time will tell. The ICS will be given a statutory footing according to the white paper.

Richard Murray, CE of the King's Fund says"By sweeping away clunky competition and procurement rules, these new plans could give the NHS and its partners greater flexibility to deliver joined up care to the increasing numbers of people who rely on multiple different services."

Of course flexibility to some is a free for all to others. But if we truly want to see an end of turf wars between professions and an improvement in patient journeys, as long as safety is sacrosanct, does it matter who does what along a patient pathway?

Rules that have appeared to have made sense in the past have often made electing for a NHS service more difficult. You might be surprised how many direct phone calls PHN receives each week fro m elderly or vunerable patients asking for help in finding Opticians who provide Home Visits in their area.

We try and help but many want an independent practitioner not a large domiciliary company and we struggle as many independents have not informed our education site www.mylocaloptician.co.uk/find that they provide the service. We do go the full mile and contact local independents by phone asking for information, but almost always we are told that no optician wants to, or can afford to do home visits.

As the ICS role will be to look at help in community care and social care this might be one area they could be more flexible in adoption.

NHS England – eye care priorities for 2021/22

In its latest priorities and operational planning guidance, NHS England (NHSE) says it hopes to “reduce variation in access and outcomes”, by maximising elective activity and “taking full advantage of the opportunities to transform the delivery of services”. As part of this initiative, it expects the NHS to “implement whole pathway transformations and thereby improve performance” in “eye care with support via the National Pathway Improvement Programme”.

Its implementation guidance sets out how NHSE plans to shift some of its direct commissioning functions to new Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). Although NHSE is still consulting on legislative change proposals, it “anticipates” ICSs will take on general ophthalmic commissioning from 1 April 2022 onwards.

What FODO says:

David Hewlett of FODO said: “FODO and every other optical body has stressed the importance of preserving the national sight testing and case finding service and infrastructure on public health grounds.”

He added: “Irrespective of where in the system contracts are held, the priorities for FODO and the other optical bodies , must be to protect choice and access for patients and minimise bureaucracy for primary eye care contractors.”

FODO has also responded to the Health and Select Committee inquiry into healthcare reforms, calling for the national sight-testing and case-finding service to be preserved and patient choice to be strengthened Read FODO response here

Meanwhile like Pandemic Relaxation powers Wales they also make the first moves in eye care reforms and optometry

Following the 11 March announcement of plans to reform eye care services in Wales, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, has announced that over £8.5m will be “invested to create a new Electronic Patient Record and digital Electronic Referral system for eye care in Wales”. National digital eye care patient record system.

NHS Wales and the Welsh Government has published "Future approach for optometry services." Pages 38 to 42 provide a good summary table of what the government hopes will be delivered across Level 1 to 4 of the new GOS model.

 

 

 
 
 
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