Following the spread of the Coronavirus, the Association of Optometrists (AOP) has published advice for members on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In the statement, the AOP stressed that it is highly unlikely that patients who present to an optical practice with cold or flu-like symptoms will have the coronavirus.
‘If patients inform you that they have cold or flu-like symptoms before they arrive for their appointment then it is acceptable to advise them to rebook their appointment for when they have fully recovered’, the guidance states.
‘If the patient only advises you of cold or flu-like symptoms when they present to the practice, given the prolonged duration of close contact, it is acceptable to advise the patient that you are unable to see them, and they should rebook on another day when they have recovered.’
Within the guidance, the AOP highlights the importance of basic hygiene measures, what to do if optometrists suspect that a patient may have coronavirus as well as what steps practitioners should take if they are concerned that they have contracted coronavirus.
In addition to the publication by the AOP, Public Health England (PHE) has also created guidance for UK primary care workers which aims to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Published on PHE’s website, the guidelines emphasise the importance of identifying potential cases as soon as possible, preventing the transmission of the virus to other patients and staff and avoiding direct physical contact with patients who may have the infection. Due to the global nature of the outbreak, it also stressed the importance of taking an accurate travel history.
Outlining a variety of situations that primary care workers may be faced with, the advice includes what actions to take when an unwell patient with a relevant travel history presents to practice and how to properly clean a room after a high-risk patient is seen in practice.
If a patient calls to make an appointment and it becomes clear they may be at risk of coronavirus, then a face-to-face assessment should be avoided. The clinician should instead call a local secondary care infection specialist to discuss safe assessment of the patient.
PHE advises that in the event of an at-risk patient presenting to practice, they should be placed in another room away from other patients and staff. A physical examination should be avoided and a clinical history should be taken by telephone if required. If a physical examination is in progress when the risk becomes evident, the clinician should stop the examination, withdraw from the room and wash their hands with soap and water.