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



AOP Locum logbook now available online
Welsh Sight Test Fee rise confirmed
OFNC update: Resumption of patient signatures on GOS forms
GOC suspends Birmingham based student optometrist
New Covid Guidance from DEC
GOC searches for new Chief Executive
Atlas of variation in risk factors and healthcare for vision in England
GOC suspends Bradford based student optometrist
Optical sector issues updated covid guidance for domiciliary providers
Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning appoints new Chair and Vice Chair
Two Colleges launch joint vision for future
Covid Amber Phase Update from College
GOC erases Manchester based student dispensing optician
College and ABDO reflections on Freedom Day for Primary Care
GOS to decommission Exeter System
News from the General Optical Council meeting held yesterday 14 July 2021
LV Commissioning and review long overdue
GOC launches vital consultation on new requirements for independent prescribing qualifications
GOC shares insights from 2021 registrant survey
AOP response to Government NHS reform plans
GOC appoints Frank Munro as new registrant Council member
Health and Social Care Bill caught in log jam, not helped by change of Pilot at the helm.
Joint statement on post-operative cataract care
Important: Changes to ordering lateral flow tests in England
GOC publishes consultations on service of statutory notices by email, remote hearings and indicative sanctions
GOC erases Derbyshire based dispensing optician
GOS Signatures are back shortly
GOC shares findings from therapeutic prescribing literature review
GOC suspends Aberdeen based optometrist
Fee uplift for Welsh Optometrists providing for Wales Eye Care Services 2021-22
AOP sets out a vision for the future of optometry
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
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

AOP Locum logbook now available online

September 2021

An online version of the Association of Optometrists’ (AOP) Locum logbook is now available for all UK pre-reg and practising AOP locum members to access from today, Wednesday 8 September.

The AOP Locum logbook, kindly supported by Johnson & Johnson Vision, is a tool designed to assist locum members in keeping a record of the work that they are potentially responsible for.

The AOP’s Communication Director, Vicky Vine said: “The AOP Locum logbook has been devised by our expert clinical and legal teams to give locum members added reassurance when carrying out their work. It provides somewhere for members to document evidence to show they’ve taken appropriate action and have met the GOC's Standards of Practice.”

Ms Vine added: “It’s now been developed as an online tool in response to feedback from the members who use it, and it also offers a more secure and environmentally-friendly method of record keeping.”

For ease of use, the online version aims to reflect the design features of the previous hardcopy. It is separated into four main sections: practice details, internal referrals and investigation requests, local area protocols and useful resources.

Speaking about how the logbook compliments other locum support, Professional Education & Development Manager at Johnson & Johnson Vision, Sheetal Patel said: ‘’We are very happy to be able to continue and develop our partnership with the AOP in providing tailored support to locums. The digital version of the Locum logbook is an evolution to the already diverse range of resources, tools, services and education we provide in conjunction with the AOP, aiding locums to continue to deliver great patient care.’’

The logbook is part of a broader suite of support tools and services that locums receive as part of their AOP membership. The AOP supports over 5000 locum members to fulfil their professional roles – with benefits including targeted locum events and webinars, the AOP locum register and vacancies list, general legal helpline and tax investigation cover.

The online logbook is accessible to UK AOP practising and pre-registration members only, and designed specifically for those undertaking locum work. Members can access it using their normal login details at

For those who use the logbook but decide not to renew their membership at any point – data will be stored in accordance with statutory record keeping periods and will be available on request.

Welsh Sight Test Fee rise confirmed

September 2021

The Welsh Government has confirmed that the GOS sight test fee will increase to £21.71.

This will be backdated to 1 April 2021.

For NHS domiciliary visits carried out on or after 1 April 2021, the fee is £38.27 for the first and second patients seen at one visit and £9.58 for the third and subsequent visits. CET grants will also increase to £584.

NHS Sight Test Fee and NHS Domiciliary Fee

The NHS sight test fee has increased to £21.71 from 1 April 2021. For superannuation
purposes please note that for ophthalmic medical practitioners the practice expense
component of the sight test fee will be £5.51 from April 2021.

For NHS domiciliary visits carried out on or after 1 April 2021, the fee is £38.27 for the
first and second patients seen at one visit and £9.58 for the third and subsequent visits.

NHS optical voucher values and supplements will remain at the same level as 2020/21

OFNC update: Resumption of patient signatures on GOS forms

August 2021

The DHSC has informed the OFNC that the COVID-19 suspension of the requirement for patient signatures on GOS forms will end on 31 August 2021. This means that patient signatures will be required on all GOS forms from Wednesday 1 September.

Patient signatures are also being reintroduced for NHS dental patients and in pharmacies from the same date.

Practices and practitioners are reminded that we are still in the College of Optometrists’ ‘amber phase’ and that rigorous infection prevention and control (IPC) measures continue to be required in line with government, College of Optometrists and ABDO guidance.

We will continue to press the Government for a further extension of the 31 August deadline in relation to domiciliary patients but there are no indications at this point that that is likely to be successful. We will, of course, inform you immediately if the situation changes.

GOC suspends Birmingham based student optometrist

August 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Waqaus Ali, a student optometrist based in Birmingham, from its register for three months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to undertake training impaired by reason of conviction. This is in relation to failing to provide a blood specimen in the course of an investigation to determine whether he had driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Mr Ali has until 17 September 2021 to appeal his suspension.

New Covid Guidance from DEC

August 2021

Optical sector updates covid guidance for domiciliary providers and publishes key messages about lateral flow testing for care homes

The Domiciliary Eyecare Committee (DEC) has today updated its Covid-19 guidance to reflect the government’s decision that all staff working in care homes in England, including visiting professionals such as optometrists and dispensing opticians, must be double vaccinated against Covid-19 from 11 November 2021 (unless they are exempt under the regulations).

The DEC wishes to highlight that professional staff will need to have their first jab by 16 September 2021 in order to meet this deadline if they are not vaccinated already.

The DEC has also agreed key messages about lateral flow testing with NHS England and care sector organisations, which will be cascaded to care homes including via the CQC fortnightly bulletin.

DEC Co-Chairs Dawn Roberts and Gordon Ilett said: “This is a challenging time for everyone as we try to meet the needs of domiciliary patients whilst keeping them, care home residents and staff, and our own staff, safe. Vision and eye health are so important, especially for vulnerable people who cannot leave home, but we cannot deliver this essential care without the active support of our care home colleagues. The positive response of our partners in the care sector in helping us get this message out has been very impressive and very welcome.”

GOC searches for new Chief Executive

August 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has begun its search for a new Chief Executive (CEO) and Registrar to succeed Lesley Longstone.

The new CEO and Registrar will play a central role in driving the future direction of the GOC, ensuring that patient safety is at the heart of its work and continuing to deliver its ‘Fit for the Future’ strategic plan which runs to 31 March 2025.

Major priorities will include:

• Delivery of the GOC’s five-year strategic plan ‘Fit for the Future’;
• The implementation of reforms to our pre and post registration education systems, a unique opportunity to modernise and strengthen the standards and requirements for admission to the GOC register as well as continuing professional development requirements;
• Progressing the review of the organisational structure to best meet future needs;
• Continuing to ensure that the GOC meets all the standards set by its oversight regulator the Professional Standards Authority.

The new CEO and Registrar will replace Lesley Longstone who will be stepping down toward the end of the year.

Dr Anne Wright CBE, GOC Chair of Council, said: “We are proud of the many achievements we have delivered over recent years, but never has our role in protecting the public and upholding standards been more critical.

On behalf of the GOC I would like to thank Lesley for the outstanding leadership she has shown since joining the GOC in 2018.

It will be important that the new CEO and Registrar is collaborative with the ability to work constructively with key partners across the regulatory and wider stakeholder landscape. An impressive track record of change management, relationship building and leading quality improvement in a complex organisation will be essential.

If you welcome the challenge of leading optical regulation at this time, we would be delighted to hear from you.”

The recruitment process is being led by Moloney Search. To apply, candidates will have to submit their CV, a statement of no more than two sides of A4 indicating how they meet the person specification, and a diversity monitoring form, to Candidates will have until 23:55 on 12 September 2021 to apply.

For more information on the role and how to apply, please email Moloney Search at for a Candidate Pack.

Atlas of variation in risk factors and healthcare for vision in England

August 2021

Frank Munro now to be at GOC

Public Health England (PHE) has published their Atlas of variation in risk factors and healthcare for vision in England. Working with a range of clinicians, public health analysts and stakeholders, including the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning1 (CCEHC); this is the first health intelligence output from PHE solely focused on eye health.

Using the Portfolio of Indicators for Eye Health and Care (CCEHC SAFE metrics) as a guide, the Atlas brings together 32 indicators across the whole vision pathway from describing populations at risk of poor eye health, through screening to healthcare services, and eye health outcomes. The indicators are drawn from the best available population level data sources, and the Atlas addresses a long recognised gap in regular review and reporting of eye health data arising from routine NHS care.

New analyses of hospital eye services including outpatient appointments, intravitreal injections, cataract and retinal detachment surgery, are presented revealing local and regional variations that to date have remained unrecognised. In doing so, the Atlas has:

• highlighted and quantified variations across a range of eye health indicators that will be hard to overlook, and deserve closer local review and scrutiny to understand their underlying causes and outliers
• called for making better use of existing data sources and improving their quality
• highlighted the lack of routinely available, granular data from services provided in primary eye care and the need to ensure that is addressed.

Access to the data underpinning the indicators is available through the Interactive Atlas, an online tool to support review and interpretation of local variations in health service indicators, and prevalence of risk factors for poor vision health.

Chair of the CCEHC, Parul Desai said:

“The Atlas is timely, presenting trends in the years immediately prior to, and provisional data during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as a resource to support planning and monitoring the impact of actions taken by clinicians, CCGs, ICSs, providers and policy makers locally, and by the National Eye Care Restoration and Transformation Programme.

“It should not be seen as a one-off, but as a starting point for local discussion and action. It will be a significant tool to help monitor population eye health and its contributory factors. Practical options for action are proposed that could make meaningful differences to patients, and the quality, accessibility and consistency of care provided by eye health services – now and in the longer term.”

GOC suspends Bradford based student optometrist

August 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Haroon Zubair, a student optometrist based in Bradford, from its register for six months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct. This is in relation to his inappropriate use of a social media platform.
Mr Zubair has until 24 August 2021 to appeal his suspension.

Optical sector issues updated covid guidance for domiciliary providers

August 2021

The Domiciliary Eyecare Committee (DEC) has today published updated guidance for domiciliary eye care providers and practitioners for the next phases of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here

It updates guidance originally issued in June 2020 and takes account of latest knowledge about infectivity, the availability of PPE, vaccination and lateral flow testing.

The guidance includes advice for everyone involved in the domiciliary eye care pathway and what patients, carers and care homes can expect in terms of safety from the domiciliary service.

It emphasises the importance of regular eye care for people who are unable to leave home unaided and how compliance with rigorous infection prevention and control should make this possible for most patients in most settings. Even where it is not, remote care should be provided to support daily living and quality of life and prevent visual impairment and sight loss.

Commenting DEC Co-Chairs Dawn Roberts and Gordon Ilett said: “This updated guidance reflects latest government and public health advice and College of Optometrists and ABDO professional guidance. It should help improve access by reassuring patients, carers and care homes about the importance of regular eye care and that they will be safe in using domiciliary eye care services.”

DEC member, Steve Clark, who led the review of the guidance added: “It is vital that domiciliary patients can access to regular eye care again so we can maximise their vision and quality of life and prevent impairment and lasting damage. This guidance is intended to help us do that as safely as possible through the next phases of Covid -19 and the winter flu season.”

Declared by : Domiciliary Eyecare Committee

Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning appoints new Chair and Vice Chair

July 2021

Mr Wojciech Karwatowski has been elected as the new chair of the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) following a vote by the members of the Clinical Council. Mr Karwatowski is a Consultant Ophthalmologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Chair of the Local Eye Health Network for Leicestershire and Lincolnshire and a member of The Royal College of Ophthalmologist’s Professional Standards Committee.

Ms Zoe Richmond MCOptom, Optometrist and Interim Clinical Director at the Local Optical Committee Central Support Unit (LOCSU) has also been elected as Vice Chair. Both will take over roles from Miss Parul Desai and Dr David Parkins respectively from October 2021.

Formed in 2013, the CCEHC is an independent advisory body providing evidence-based national clinical leadership, advice and guidance to policy makers in health, social care and public health, and those commissioning and providing eye health services in England.

Speaking about his appointment, Wojciech Karwatowski said:

“The CCEHC’s unique position in encompassing all the key professional, industry and third sector groups, supported by its relationship with the NHS, has allowed it to function highly effectively both prior to and during the pandemic. Its output of guidelines, quality structures and information has hugely enriched the discussion within, and actions by, the eye care sector and the wider NHS.

“My priority is to build on partnerships and mutual understanding between members, and maintain a focus on delivering efficient, effective and high-quality modern patient care now and into the future.”

Zoe Richmond said:

“As we stand on the brink of wholesale NHS reform, it is more important than ever that the voice of our sector is heard where it matters. The CCEHC is well placed to lead the way: reflected by its membership, the Council represents the major clinical professions, social care, charity and voluntary organisations within the eye health and care sector and brings strong collaborative working and leadership.”

Outgoing Chair Parul Desai said:

“The CCEHC has been a key voice in promoting eye health commissioning to deliver improved services for patients through developing a range of commissioning frameworks. The pandemic has revealed short-comings in how eye care in England has been delivered, and adopting the recommendations of the Council will be crucial if we are to lead the world in high quality eye care services for patients.

“It has been a privilege to serve as Chair of the CCEHC. I wish Wojciech and Zoe well in their new roles, and look forward to working with them.”

Two Colleges launch joint vision for future

July 2021

The College of Optometrists and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists launch NEW joint vision for delivering eye care services across the UK

The College of Optometrists and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) continue to review the ongoing impact of the pandemic on eye services across primary and secondary care. Following on from the joint vision statement for England published in August 2020, both Colleges have reviewed and built on the learnings over the past year resulting in a joint statement for the UK which can be read here.

As the COVID-19 restrictions evolve, it is important to develop more integrated eye care across all organisations that can provide capacity and meet patient demand in a safe and sustainable way and which protects patients from harmful delays. The NHS hospital eye service, the independent sector, community settings and primary care optometry can come together to develop and build on existing good pathway examples in all four nations and innovations introduced at pace during COVID-19.

The joint vision aims to encourage ambitious, co-ordinated and collaborative eye care services across the whole sector, at pace and that provides equitable access for all patients, no matter where they live or what their circumstances may be.

Pathways must ensure patients are prioritised based on their clinical need and to receive care that is appropriate and accessible. Multidisciplinary professionals will provide that care working collaboratively in primary care, community and hospital settings.

Colin Davidson FCOptom, President of the College of Optometrists said; “In the grip of the pandemic, we worked very quickly with the RCOphth to develop joint management principles and pathways that minimise the risk of vision loss. We – working with UK nation’s health and government bodies and key sector bodies – need to build on these advances and go much further, in the interests of both of our professions and patients. We see this as the start of the conversation that will allow optometrists to be recognised and enabled to do more, in line with their skills so that optometrists can routinely provide services including, glaucoma triage and pre- and post-operative cataract assessments.

Bernard Chang, President of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists said, ‘Both Colleges, working with key eye service providers within national health systems, recognise we cannot be complacent or stand still. We must continue to push for more effective and innovative ways of delivering high quality patient care in a constantly changing pandemic environment and what this means for the future of eye services. We now have tried and tested new models of care that are significantly making an impact on capacity and the backlogs.’

The joint vision is underpinned by four principles; reducing risk of visual loss due to delayed eye care; collaborative multidisciplinary professionals team working; direct patient contact with appropriate clinician or senior decision-maker eg. an optometrist with higher qualifications or the independent prescribing certificate, or the hospital eye service; pathways led by highest standards of clinical governance.

You can read our joint statement here.

Covid Amber Phase Update from College

July 2021

The College has updated its Amber phase COVID-19 guidance to help practices across the UK deliver eye care safely and effectively at this stage of the pandemic.

Their position remains clear - practices should continue to remain open for routine services while prioritising patients on a needs and symptoms-led basis. Optometrists and other practice staff should continue to maintain comprehensive infection prevention and control procedures, including the wearing of appropriate PPE to keep patients and practice staff safe as restrictions ease across the UK.

Based on new public health evidence and government guidance, we have updated our guidance and COVID-19 FAQs. Key changes include:

• Appropriate use of disinfecting agents on surfaces and equipment.
• Safe and proportionate use of disposable PPE.
• Patient prioritisation management.
• Reintroduction of Alger brush and microblepharoexfoliation procedures.
• Managing patients without face coverings.
• Supply of contact lenses to an expired specification.

They have produced a short video that answers common questions about the Amber guidance.

They will continually review the evidence and working with public health bodies across the UK will ensure their COVID-19 guidance remains comprehensive and up-to-date.

The College is also aware that the rules around self-isolation are under review across the UK, so we recommend that you check your Nation’s government website for the latest information. They will endeavour to keep members updated of any future changes when each Nation has confirmed their policy.

GOC erases Manchester based student dispensing optician

July 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Fawad Ahmed, a student dispensing optician based in Manchester, England, from its register.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to train impaired by reason of convictions and misconduct. This is in relation to his convictions of conspiring to defraud, driving above the specified controlled drug limit, driving while disqualified and using a vehicle while uninsured, and failing to declare these convictions to the GOC.

Mr Ahmed has until 21 July 2021 to appeal his erasure.

College and ABDO reflections on Freedom Day for Primary Care

July 2021

Easement of COVID-19 Restrictions : Delivering Safe Eye Care

The Association of British Dispensing Opticians and The College of Optometrists advises that practices should continue to operate in the amber phase and maintain high infection control standards this summer.

Yesterday, marked the lifting of further lockdown restrictions across many parts of the UK.

The Association of British Dispensing Opticians and The College of Optometrists advise the profession in all nations that you should continue to follow the College’s Amber guidance, your national eye care standard operating procedures and the GOC supporting statements for the amber phase. We continue to work with public health officials and keep the profession updated on any changes.

Practices should continue to:

• Maintain social distancing where possible
• Ensure all staff wear a face mask (FRFM) and follow the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
• Recommend the public continue to wear a face-covering when on practice premises
• Ensure scrupulous hand washing
• Ensure good surface disinfection and frame sanitising after every patient episode
• Encourage all staff to use lateral flow tests and report the results regularly
• Maintain patient triage and prioritisation
• Maintain good ventilation throughout the practice.

Maintaining high standards of infection controls, including handwashing and wearing face masks is vital to protect practice teams and remain open to provide eyecare as people begin to move about more freely.

We anticipate the Amber phase guidance will continue for some period and beyond 2021 as we do not know what the Winter will bring. We will continue to monitor the situation, as the transition from the Amber to Green phase guidance will be guided by each respective nation’s government decisions and subject to a variety of factors, including a sustained reduction in COVID-19 transmission risk and the removal of social distancing and IPC requirements.

GOS to decommission Exeter System

July 2021

PCSE says NHS Digital will decommission the Open Exeter system used for processing old-style paper GOS claims at the end of July 2021.

Still have any old-style forms? Then you must submit these by Friday 30 July so that the PCSE can pay them.

PCSE also advises that if you require a copy of any statements from Open Exeter, you need to submit the query by Monday 26 July.

News from the General Optical Council meeting held yesterday 14 July 2021

July 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) held its second Council meeting of the year, which considered three qualifications for approval, progress against the GOC’s fitness to practise (FtP) performance projections, Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) annual report for 2020-21, and the annual monitoring report (AMR) for sector education providers.
Qualification approval

The Council approved qualifications at the following universities:

• University of the West of England (UWE) – Bachelor of Science (Honours) Optometry
• University of Hertfordshire – Independent Prescribing for Optometrists
• University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) – Bachelor of Science (Honours) Ophthalmic Dispensing

Under the Opticians Act, the GOC has the power to approve qualifications and education institutions offering optical training.

Fitness to practise (FtP) performance

The Council meeting covered the progress made against the GOC’s 2020-21 FtP performance projections and its performance expectations for 2021-22.

Since the FtP Improvement Programme was introduced in 2019, the number of investigations opened were reduced from 161 in 2019-20 to 65 in 2020-21. This is due to the introduction of acceptance criteria for individual registrants and subsequently businesses, which sets out a threshold against which new FtP complaints are assessed before being accepted for investigation.

In addition, the GOC continues to develop its in-house case-management knowledge and expand the number of cases dealt with in-house, and has implemented an independent, emotional support service for registrants and witnesses.

Council also noted the success of ‘FtP FOCUS’, a learning bulletin for registrants on the FtP process, which was first introduced in December 2020. The first and second editions focused on the triage and investigation stages, respectively, and the third edition, due out this summer, will focus on the case examiner stage.

Looking forward, the GOC will revise its improvement programme to focus on identifying a case management solution that will fully support the team with efficient case progression, and improving collection, collation and analysis of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion data.

Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report 2020-21

The Council noted the annual report from the OCCS, which is an independent and free mediation service for patients of optical care and the professionals providing that care, funded by the GOC.

The OCCS saw 1,411 referrals in 2020-21, with most of these complaints falling under the categories of ‘customer care’ and ‘goods and services’. This is a 12.4% decrease in referrals compared to 2019-20.

The GOC will continue to work closely with the OCCS to discuss lower-level complaints which are unlikely to meet the threshold for a FtP investigation.

During 2019-2020, there was an 80% reduction in referrals from the OCCS into the GOC’s fitness to practise team, and this low volume has been maintained over the last year.

Annual monitoring report (AMR) for sector education providers

The Council noted the 2019-20 AMR, which forms part of the GOC’s Approval and Quality Assurance (A&QA) cycle for all education providers offering GOC-approved qualifications.

The report is an opportunity for the GOC to verify key changes, events and risks submitted by education providers and consider them in a wider sector context.

This year’s report focussed more on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on optical education, as well as gathering data relating to programme delivery, progression, lessons learnt and good practice.

The Council heard that positively, providers were able to adapt resourcefully and efficiently to the lockdown and adopt contingencies that met their academic standards as well as the GOC’s requirements. In addition, recruitment to most optometry programmes has not been affected by the pandemic.

However, many dispensing optics programmes suffered poor recruitment and awarding bodies were severely affected by the pandemic. Pre-registration periods were suspended, and practical examinations were postponed, which led to fewer students qualifying as optometrists or dispensing opticians in the 2019/20 year.

To help providers meet requirements during the lockdown, the GOC implemented temporary changes to the optometry quality assurance handbook and supervision policy, which helped optometry programmes provide clinical experience even if real patient experience was scarce.

A full set of the Council papers is available on the GOC website.

LV Commissioning and review long overdue

July 2021

CCEHC survey highlights need to review commissioning and provision of low vision services to deliver more accessible and
integrated care for patients in England.

The Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC)1, which represents the major clinical professions and sight loss charity organisations in the eye-care sector, has conducted a survey on the commissioning and provision of low vision assessment services in England.

The survey was conducted for five weeks from 5th April 2021 to gain an understanding of the impact of the pandemic on low vision assessment services between April 2020 – March 2021. The survey showed that prior to the pandemic, there was variation in the use of service specifications, protocols and thresholds for low vision assessment. Since the pandemic service provision has been challenging, with deployed clinical staff, patients and some practitioners shielding, and lower clinic numbers to maintain distancing. This has been associated with a significant fall in certifications of visual impairment during lockdown periods2. Detailed survey findings can be found at

Based on these findings, the CCEHC makes the following recommendations, and calls for low vision services to be included in system recovery and transformation planning:

 Manage low vision assessment backlogs by:

o risk assessment of patients waiting to prioritise those in greatest need
o triage to interim support by another part of the system
o aiming to clear backlogs within 6 months.

 Review existing low vision service provision (demand and capacity), protocols and pathways to:

o scope potential for more integrated services
o incorporate remote consultations for prioritisation and follow-up as appropriate e.g., patient initiated follow up, access to advice and guidance, review to check managing with existing aids/ new requirements
o ensure there is domiciliary provision for those that require it
o ensure Eye Clinic Liaison Officers are core members of the low vision service team and link across primary, community, hospital and social care
o include provision of information on digital assistive aids (e.g., digital magnifiers) and signposting to IT courses for those who are visually challenged.

 Develop service specifications and quality standards for integrated low vision care as part of a whole systems approach to:

o ensure consistent access and availability of services
o offer a choice (where possible or appropriate) making optimal use of primary, community, local authority and hospital services
o provide processes for governance, audit, engagement, service improvement, and review of services provided
o identify a dedicated (ring fenced) low vision budget that can be accessed system wide (primary, secondary and tertiary) to ensure a sustainable service.

Ms Parul Desai, CCEHC Chair commented ‘Many providers have tried to ensure safe services and looked to innovative solutions. The learning from COVID-19 is already changing the way some low vision services are delivered. We encourage all commissioners and providers of eye health services to review their current low vision assessment service provision, particularly use of remote consultations for pre-assessment review and follow up /monitoring; and their processes for ensuring equitable access to services meeting consistent standards of care. The development of more integrated low vision services has significant benefits for patients, practitioners and organisations across health and social care.

The CCEHC will be considering further phases of work to monitor progress’.

GOC launches vital consultation on new requirements for independent prescribing qualifications

July 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today launched a consultation, on extensive proposals to update requirements that underpin the approval of qualifications for specialist entry to the GOC register, in additional supply (AS), supplementary prescribing (SP) and independent prescribing (IP) categories.

The consultation seeks views on three proposed documents:

· Outcomes for Approved Qualifications for Specialist Entry to the GOC Register (AS, SP and IP), which describes the expected knowledge, skills and behaviours an optometrist must have for the award of an approved qualification for specialist entry to the GOC register.
· Standards for Approved Qualifications for Specialist Entry to the GOC Register (AS, SP and IP), which describes the expected context for the delivery and assessment of the outcomes leading to an award of an approved qualification for specialist entry to the GOC register.
· Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method for Specialist Entry to the GOC Register (AS, SP and IP), which describes how the GOC will gather evidence to decide, in accordance with the Opticians Act, whether a qualification for specialist entry to the GOC register meets its outcomes and standards for approved qualifications for specialist entry to the GOC register.

The proposed documents will replace ‘A Handbook for Optometry Specialist Registration in Therapeutic Prescribing’ and the ‘Competency Framework for Independent Prescribing’, published in 2008 and 2011 respectively. They will also replace the policies on supervision and recognition of prior learning, which are published separately.

Currently, qualified optometrists who have been practising in the UK for two years are eligible to train for a specialty qualification in AS, SP or IP. In addition, trainees may only undertake a clinical placement as part of their IP training under the supervision of an ophthalmologist within the hospital eye service.

The proposed changes include:

· Trainees would acquire a single GOC-approved qualification leading to specialist entry to the GOC register in either the AS, SP and/or IP categories, instead of the two sequential GOC-approved qualifications required at present (the theoretical component, normally delivered by a university, followed by The College of Optometrist’s Therapeutic Common Assessment).

· The approved qualification would be either an academic award or a regulated qualification at a minimum of Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) (or equivalent) level 7.

· Trainee supervision would be undertaken by an appropriately trained and qualified registered healthcare professional with IP rights (called a designated prescribing practitioner or DPP) rather than an ophthalmologist (designated medical practitioner or DMP). The DPP must be an active prescriber competent in the clinical area(s) they will be supervising the trainee in, have the relevant core competencies and be trained and supported to carry out their role effectively.

· An outcomes-based approach would be used to specify knowledge, skills and behaviours using an established competence and assessment hierarchy known as ‘Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence’, mapped to relevant external prescribing frameworks, including the draft Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) Competency Framework for all Prescribers (2021).

· IP registrants would no longer be required to renew their specialty separately or supply details of prescribing decisions undertaken in the previous 12 months.

The GOC is conscious of workforce pressures within IP and delays to trainee progression, which these changes will help to address. The GOC will continue to work at pace with its Expert Advisory Group (EAG) for IP, which consists of experts from across the sector, to reflect on feedback received through this consultation, and in developing final proposals.

Whilst the current requirements for IP qualifications remain in place, the GOC continues to work closely with key stakeholders, to review what temporary adaptations can be made to improve progression whilst also ensuring trainees meet current requirements.

GOC Director of Education, Leonie Milliner, said: “We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to shaping these important proposals to update our requirements for qualifications we approve, leading to specialist entry to the GOC register in one or more of the IP categories. We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to listen to concerns and understand the impact of our proposals, particularly upon trainees whose progress has stalled due to the limited availability of hospital eye service placements during this pandemic.

We value all the feedback we receive to ensure our requirements are fit for purpose and reflect the changing landscape of the optical sector, not least as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.

In the autumn we intend to consult on similarly extensive proposals, to update our requirements that underpin the approval of qualifications for specialist entry to the GOC register as a contact lens optician.”

The consultation is hosted on the GOC Consultation Hub and will close on 4 October 2021.

GOC shares insights from 2021 registrant survey

July 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published the findings from its 2021 registrant survey, which asked registrants about their views and perceptions of the GOC and their experiences of working in clinical practice.

The online survey was conducted by Enventure Research, an independent research company, who also conducted the 2016 registrant survey.
Almost 5,000 registrants responded, representing a 1 percent increase in response rate compared to 2016. 56% of respondents were in optometrist roles, 25% in dispensing optician roles, and 21% were either a student optometrist or dispensing optician.

More than half of respondents (65% and 62% respectively) agreed that the GOC was meeting its strategic objectives to build a culture of continuous improvement and deliver world-class regulatory practice. Just under half (49%) agreed that the GOC is meeting its objective to transform customer service.

The research also highlighted the challenges faced by registrants during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 40% of respondents reporting that they worked beyond their hours, 28% found it difficult to provide patients with the sufficient level of care they needed, and 52% being furloughed by their employer or having their educational course suspended in the last 12 months.

A large proportion of respondents (58%) were satisfied with their job or role over the past 12 months, and 43% plan to gain additional qualifications or skills in the next 12 to 24 months.

Marcus Dye, GOC Acting Director of Strategy, said: “We would like to thank everyone that responded to this year’s registrant survey and Enventure Research for carrying out this work. It’s positive to see that a large proportion of respondents think we are meeting our strategic objectives as we progress through the second year of our ‘Fit for the Future’ strategic plan, and that almost half of respondents plan to bolster their knowledge or skills over the next couple of years.

We know this past year hasn’t been easy for many registrants, so we are thankful for their hard work and dedication to still deliver high quality eye care despite the challenges. It’s been beneficial to gain insight into their experiences during the pandemic and we will use these findings, amongst others, to consider how we can continue to support registrants going forward and also protect the public.”

The full report and infographic are available on the Policy and Research page of the GOC website.

AOP response to Government NHS reform plans

July 2021

In February 2021, the UK Government set out reform plans for the NHS in England. The Health and Care Bill, which was introduced to Parliament yesterday, is intended to provide the legal basis for these changes.

The AOP and the other members of the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) are in discussion with NHS England on what the plans will mean for optometry and the opportunities it can open up for the sector.

AOP Clinical Director, Dr Peter Hampson explains: “A significant upside of the new plans is that local commissioning of eye care services will move from Clinical Commissioning Groups to larger Integrated Care Boards. That should pave the way for more consistent commissioning of extended eye care services delivered in High Street optometric practices.

The benefits of such services are proven – most recently in the form of the new Coronavirus Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES) launched in England last year.
“The new Bill confirms this direction of travel, and could enable NHS England to make maximum use of the clinical skills of optometrists and dispensing opticians, helping to relieve pressure on the NHS.”

In February the AOP flagged potential risks around the reforms relating to GOS commissioning, and we continue to work with others in the sector to manage those risks.
Dr Hampson highlighted: “Earlier this year we warned that devolving the commissioning of the GOS contract in England from national level would create extra cost and complexity, for no benefit. We and the other optical bodies have pressed for reassurance that GOS will remain nationally negotiated, and the response has been positive. The OFNC will issue an update about this in the coming days.”

Last month, the AOP published our  Strategy for Optometry – outlining our view of the future of optometry to provide consistent and efficient eye care for all across the UK.

GOC appoints Frank Munro as new registrant Council member

July 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has appointed Frank Munro as the new Scottish registrant Council member beginning today.

Frank Munro now to be at GOC
Frank is a practising optometrist in Glasgow and Lanarkshire, with a keen interest in optometric service development, the management of acute and emergency eyecare, chronic eye disease, low vision, myopia control and complex contact lens design.

He qualified as an independent prescribing optometrist in 2011 and recently achieved the NHS Education for Scotland glaucoma qualification, which enables the autonomous management of glaucoma by optometrists in the community.

Frank has held various roles in professional and Government bodies, including Chair of the UK optometric therapeutic steering group, President of the College of Optometrists, and Chair of the Scottish Committee of Optometrists. He is also co-founder of the Glasgow Integrated Eyecare Service, Lanarkshire Eye-health Network Service and of Optometry Scotland, where he also served as Chair.

Dr Anne Wright CBE, GOC Chair of Council, said: “I’m pleased to welcome Frank to the GOC. Frank has a wealth of skills and experience in the optical industry which will be extremely valuable and insightful as we progress various strategic projects, such as our review of optical education and the implementation of our new Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme. I look forward to working with him to continue our overarching mission to protect the public.”

Health and Social Care Bill caught in log jam, not helped by change of Pilot at the helm.

July 2021

Last week, NHS England said it expects the new Health and Social Care Bill “imminently” and that it would be “the most significant NHS primary legislation for a decade”. We have reported on this issue some time ago.

Now with a change at the helm of the Government Department with Sajid Javid appointed as the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, reports say that No. 10 remains unconvinced of the Bill in its current form.

Like many issues post Hancock one wonders if some of the commitments within the new bill might be fudged?

Planned reforms include removing the commissioning of NHS healthcare services from the jurisdiction of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, reforming existing tariff safeguards in favour of more ‘flexibility’ and establishing Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) on a statutory basis from 1 April 2022 via a new Health and Social Care Bill. Any of which might find less favour with the new administration.

Joint statement on post-operative cataract care

July 2021

The College of Optometrists and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists have released a joint statement of interim recommendations to discharge patients following routine uncomplicated cataract surgery.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) and The College of Optometrists are issuing interim recommendations on routine cataract care to help rapidly increase hospital capacity to see patients with urgent, complex or sight-threatening disease. The combination of pre-existing capacity constraints and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to record numbers of patients, whose ophthalmology outpatient appointments and surgery are delayed, putting large numbers of patients at real risk of avoidable sight loss.

Ophthalmology departments are taking numerous steps to minimise this risk, including validation and prioritisation of surgical and clinic waiting lists, increasing capacity through high volume diagnostic / surgical pathways and optimising the use of hospital non-medical clinical staff and primary care optometrists.

However, there is a pressing need to create additional capacity within existing resources as soon as possible. One potential solution is to manage certain groups of low-risk patients outside of traditional hospital-based pathways, where this can be delivered without compromising safety and quality of care. This includes patients who have had routine, uncomplicated cataract surgery.

These interim recommendations are supported by data from the National Ophthalmology Database Audit for Cataract Surgery (NOD) as well as by existing practice in some eye units. They are also compliant with the recommendations of the NICE Cataract Surgery: Adults guideline (NG 77, 2017), the RCOphth’s NICE accredited Commissioning Guide: Cataract Surgery (2018) and the RCOphth / GIRFT Cataract Hubs and High Flow Cataract Lists (2021).

It is important to note that these recommendations from the RCOphth and The College of Optometrists are not mandated and eye departments can adapt them depending on local circumstances. Cataract surgery outcomes must continue to be audited prospectively, particularly where there is any change in care pathways.

The Recommendations

1. Patients who have had routine, uncomplicated cataract surgery should be discharged from the hospital cataract service as follows:

all patients who have had surgery in their second eyes.

all patients who have had surgery on one eye where the fellow eye has no significant cataract or expected anisometropia (the need for second eye surgery should be identified earlier e.g. at the initial cataract assessment)

Individual eye clinics must agree to protocols to identify post-operative patients who require ongoing hospital care due to co-existing eye conditions and ensure that they have separate, appropriate and timely subspecialty clinical review

Where patients will benefit from surgery on both eyes, patients should be listed for both eyes to be done, either separately or by immediate sequential bilateral cataract surgery (ISBCS) following NICE, RCOphth and Getting it Right First Time (GIRFT) guidance. Data on first eye outcomes to inform the second eye operation lens choice can be obtained through auto-refraction on the day of second eye surgery or through a recent sight test with their local optometrist.

2. Post-operative care plans must be clearly communicated to patients at the initial appointment. Patients must have a clear route for advice and assessment for unexpected issues and emergencies such as endophthalmitis.

3. Low risk, uncomplicated patients who are discharged can be offered Patient Initiated Follow-up (PIFU). The current evidence indicates that 3-7% of these patients are likely to need some level of post-operative care, which may be patient-initiated or identified by an optometrist on follow-up.

4. All patients should be advised to visit an optometrist for a routine sight test approximately four weeks after uncomplicated surgery, which includes assessment of the patient’s final refractive status and measurement of visual acuity.

5. No NHS patient who has received cataract surgery should have to pay for any aspect of follow up care, i.e. their sight test or because they need additional tests to investigate a possible complication. Commissioning arrangements should be in place to fund the sight test if the patient is not eligible for General Ophthalmic Service (GOS), and for any further investigations, the optometrist judges to be clinically necessary, in line with locally agreed protocols.

6. The patient’s refractive status and final visual acuity should form the basis of the data submission back to the operating centre for local and national audit. Return of post-operative outcomes data continues to be crucial, particularly where there are pathway changes, to confirm that patients continue to benefit from the current high-quality outcomes.

A suitable data return mechanism should be agreed with primary care and fully commissioned.

We recognise that in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of England, pathways for routine uncomplicated post-cataract follow-up in primary care are already in place or are about to be commissioned. The provision of existing and effective pathways do not need to change. Where these pathways have not yet been commissioned, we anticipate that approximately 80% of post-operative cataract surgery patients can be managed safely through the recommendations outlined in this statement and will release outpatient resources to see and treat patients at high risk of permanent visual loss because of delayed appointments.

Important: Changes to ordering lateral flow tests in England

July 2021

NHS England has advised that from Monday 5 July 2021, all orders for lateral flow testing kits for primary care staff should be placed through GOV.UK instead of the PCSE site.

Practice staff will be able to input their workplace postcode to ensure the tests are registered as belonging to an NHS staff member.

Seven tests will then be posted to their home address.

The aim is to improve compliance with results reporting which is low in primary care.

PCSE has confirmed that it will fulfil any orders placed through PCSE Online until midnight on Sunday 4 July.

Full information note for NHS here

GOC publishes consultations on service of statutory notices by email, remote hearings and indicative sanctions

July 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today launched three consultations on:

• A new draft policy on the service of statutory notices by email:

• An updated remote hearings protocol; and

• An update to the hearings and indicative sanctions guidance.

Within GOC legislation, there are circumstances which require statutory notices to be issued; for example, when removing a registrant from the register, refusing to retain or restore a registrant to the register, an interim order hearing or substantive hearing, or when applicants seek initial registration or to restore to the register.

The policy on how the GOC will serve statutory notices by email was developed following the introduction of the General Optical Council (Committee Constitution, Registration and Fitness to Practise) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Rules 2020, which allows the GOC to use email for this purpose with registrants’ consent.

Dionne Spence, GOC Director of Casework and Resolutions, said: “We are committed to serving statutory notices in a way that is fair to registrants and individuals and in line with the requirements of our legislation.

At the start of the COVID-19 emergency in March 2020, we moved to a position of sending all notices by email to ensure we could comply with Government advice to work from home wherever possible and to mitigate the risk of the loss of personal data through our letters being left on doorsteps. In doing this, we acknowledged we were not fully compliant with our legislation in respect of obtaining written consent. In April 2021, as we moved out of the more restrictive lockdown measures we had been in, we made the decision to revert to our normal processes of serving notices by post unless we had written consent from the registrant or individual to serve notices by email.

This draft policy sets out how we will obtain consent for serving notices by email, as well as the safeguards that we will apply once consent has been obtained.”

The GOC has also reviewed and updated its remote hearings protocol which was introduced in July 2020 to support all parties attending remote hearings during the pandemic to understand the process and how it worked.

Dionne explained further: “We recognise that our remote hearings have worked well during the pandemic, offering flexibility and facilitating access to justice for participants. As we move forward, we want to continue to offer participants the choice of proceeding with some, or all of their hearings remotely, alongside more traditional face to face hearings and the protocol sets out how this will work.”

In addition, the GOC has updated its ‘Hearings and indicative sanctions guidance’ which was last updated in 2018 and assists members of the Fitness to Practise Committee (FtPC) to understand their individual and collective responsibilities, in order to make fair and just decisions on outcomes and sanctions.

All of the consultations seek feedback on the content, clarity and impacts of the policy, protocol and guidance, as well as whether there are any areas missing.

To respond to the consultations, visit the GOC Consultation Hub. The consultations will close on 22 September 2021.

GOC erases Derbyshire based dispensing optician

June 2021

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

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

This is in relation to working whilst under the influence of alcohol.

Ms Donnelly has until 15 July 2021 to appeal her erasure.

GOS Signatures are back shortly

June 2021

Resumption of GOS patient signatures – England

The Covid-19 easement, which means patients do not need to sign GOS claims, is due to end on 30 June 2021.

So, from 1 July, patients will need to sign forms unless the Department of Health and Social Care notifies us otherwise.

The Department of Health and Social Care is keeping this under review given there may be some difficulties posed by the continuing covid precautions.

GOC shares findings from therapeutic prescribing literature review

June 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published findings from its literature review on optometrist therapeutic prescribing (OTP), which aims to identify any barriers or facilitators to non-medical prescribing that impact the profession.

A range of barriers and facilitators were found, including the extent of organisational readiness, leadership, preparation of the infrastructure to support non-medical prescribing (such as access to a prescription pad and prescribing budget), practitioner readiness, continued support and professional development.

In addition, other challenges to OTP were identified, such as limited practitioner skills and motivation, access to clinical practice training, limited organisational support and a lack of external/local policies to facilitate prescribing.

Optometrists in the UK can undertake training that entitles them to prescribe a range of medicines for patients with eye conditions. This training, and registration as an optometrist therapeutic or independent prescriber, is overseen by the GOC.

The research was led by the University of Surrey and included a total of 13 systematic reviews, 11 articles (8 empirical and 3 reviews), and 8 conversations held with key stakeholders involved in OTP across England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

GOC Director of Education, Leonie Milliner, said: “We’d like to thank the University of Surrey for undertaking this review and everyone who has contributed. This review has helped inform and shape our proposals for updated education and training requirements for GOC-approved qualifications for specialist entry to the GOC register in Additional Supply (AS), Supplementary Prescribing (SP) and/or Independent Prescribing (IP)categories which we will consult on in July, alongside similar requirements for contact lens opticians.

In particular, we have considered the need for the integration of theoretical and clinical competencies within approved AS, SP and IP qualifications, removing the current two-year registration requirement prior to undertaking a clinical placement and aligning supervision requirements with other non-medical prescribers, so that suitably experienced optometrists can supervise trainees. This approach would allow optometrists to study prescribing concurrently with a GOC-approved pre-registration qualification in optometry.”

Dr Nicola Carey and Karen Stenner from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Surrey said: “This review highlights opportunities to improve the sustainability of optometrist prescribing in order to facilitate novel and innovative service delivery. The recommendations of this review are timely given the role of non-medical prescribing in improving service capacity to meet increasing demand for medication.”

The full report is available on the GOC website.

GOC suspends Aberdeen based optometrist

June 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend William Hay, an optometrist based in Aberdeen, from its register for nine months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct. This is in relation to failing to conduct an adequate eye test, refer a patient for appropriate treatment, and maintain adequate records.

Mr Hay has until 7 July 2021 to appeal his suspension.

Fee uplift for Welsh Optometrists providing for Wales Eye Care Services 2021-22

June 2021

An agreement with Optometry Wales has been reached on the payment uplift to optometrists providing the Wales Eye Care Services for 2021-22.

The Minister for Health and Social Services has approved these recommendations which are set out below. Optometrists will receive a 1.5% uplift for delivering the Eye Health Examination Wales, and the Low Vision Service Wales fee will remain unchanged at £80.00 for 2021-22.

Health boards will manage the cost of delivering this increase in payment through their recurrent revenue allocations as part of the pay uplift settlement assumptions.
Health Boards were directed under the Eye Health Examination Service Joint Committee (Wales) Directions 2016 to offer the Eye Health Examination Wales Service to all
optometry practices. Health Boards will continue to offer this service between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022, and will administer the 1.5% uplift to optometrists who will be paid
£63.68 per Band 1, £42.46 per Band 2 and £21.22 per Band 3 to deliver this service.

Health Boards were directed under the Low Vision Service Joint Committee (Wales) Directions 2016 to offer the Low Vision Service Wales to accredited optometry practices.

Health Boards will continue to offer this service from 1 April 2021. The fee will remain at £80.00 for each low vision assessment.

All payments will be reviewed as we progress the contract reform work along with all other optometry fees and service.

AOP sets out a vision for the future of optometry

June 2021

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is launching its Strategy for Optometry – a plan setting out a vision for the future of the profession across the UK.

The publication is aimed at elected representatives, NHS commissioners and other key decision-makers and is designed to highlight the key role optometry plays in the NHS, and the scope for it to do even more.

UK eye care has gone through fundamental change because of the coronavirus pandemic with optical practices providing eye care to patients where hospitals and GPs could not. Chair of AOP Council, Dr Julie-Anne Little explains: “The coronavirus pandemic prompted commissioners and clinicians to innovate. But NHS primary eye care beyond the sight test remains particularly patchy in England, creating a postcode lottery that is confusing and unfair for patients.”

The AOP’s Strategy for Optometry lays outs where optometrists are qualified and equipped to deliver more NHS work and how this can also relieve pressure on overstretched hospital eye and emergency departments.

Dr Little added: “Our strategy has been developed with the AOP Council and sets out a vision for key decision makers – showing how optometry can work better and smarter for the NHS and ensuring the skills of eye care professionals are used to their full potential. But it also highlights the reforms needed in eye care funding to make sure patients in every community retain access to the care they need.”

A summary of the strategy is included in the June/July edition of Optometry Today for all practising, student and career break AOP members, who are being encouraged to share it with their local contacts.

To read the AOP’s Strategy for Optometry in full visit

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

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

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
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.


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.

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 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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