Dear Optometry Colleagues
You will have heard tonight that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has enforced a ‘lock down’ UK wide. This means that where possible and not essential, travel and leaving the house should be limited. There are exemptions:
- Shopping for basic necessities
- One form of exercise per day
- Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- Travelling to and from work
Even when doing the above, you will need to minimise time spent outside and ensure 2 metre distancing. It is not stated that optometry practices should close, but I would take advice from your college, AOP or LOC.
This is a difficult time but it’s a system that has worked across the world. This will be for a 3 week period initially but realistically 7 weeks.
Community Eyecare will be open throughout this time as we have been designated by the Department of Health as a ‘Key place of work’ for all of our hospital sites. Although we have decided to stop routine surgery until the dust settles, we will continue managing wAMD patients as this will result in irreversible blindness. We are finalising with commissioners throughout the UK to implement a region wide emergency eyecare service to limit the travel of patients to hospital. We will be operational from tomorrow 8am to 9pm 7 days a week. The service is designed to stop patients going near a hospital or A&E department which will inevitably happen if they do not have the ability to attend high street optometry practices.
Patients will still suffer other medical issues, strokes, heart attacks and eye problems so it is important that we look after the patients we can and decrease pressures on the acute services. One emergency eye patient that turns up to the hospital, may not only catch and spread the virus, but may attract upto 3 staff for the review, a receptionist, a nurse and a doctor. Resources the hospital can ill afford at this time of national crisis.
Just by way of update, we have had further queries from optometry colleagues. I will bullet point these for ease:
- Slit lamp shields. Remember at some point you will go back to work. Many of you have been in touch with Dale who is making these shields. If you wish to discuss with AOP they will guide you .
- Hand gel/wipe availability: these rea increasingly difficult to get hold of and I made some practical suggestions to undertake in their absence previously. A large pharmacy chain has 100000 50ml vials available for £1.80 each but usually a 300ml bottle is less than £1, so likely some profiteering. I expect 300ml bottles to start becoming available more readily so perhaps best to wait, but make your own decisions on this and happy to introduce.
- Optometrists with co-morbidity: I have had a few enquiries from optoms who have severe asthma or other conditions. Depending on severity the guidance is that you would need to isolate for 12 weeks away from others. This is tough but CV-19 doesn’t differentiate and affects everyone equally.
- There were quite a few queries relating to postop checks and telephone consultations. If you do have any of our patients booked for post op checks please go ahead and undertake a telephone consultation. This will tailor the response, ie if everything is ok, you can arrange to see after the lockdown or discharge, but if the patient is having issues then please contact CHEC and we will arrange to see. If contracts are held by the LOC, please contact the LOC for advice as I believe some elements are mandatory on the Opto-manager portal?
If you do have a patient query please ring our helpline and we can offer some advice whether formal or informal. It is likely one of our doctors will call the patient.
Imran Rahman MB BS FRCOphth
CEO and Consultant Ophthalmologist