June 24th 2021

Face Coverings and Visiting Your Optician

As the United Kingdom begins to move out of lockdown and businesses once again welcome people through their doors, we examine what our new normal is.

COVID-secure measures have meant lots of changes in optical practices and the OCCS has seen very few complaints specifically about COVID measures. However, we have had queries about face coverings and applying the guidance to practices.

In today’s blog, we explore the current guidance and what non-compliance can mean in regards to receiving service.

It is a given that visiting your optician will remain an unusual experience for the foreseeable future. Designed to maintain strict safety protocols and procedures, it is important to understand that the optician, who will be implementing these protocols to protect the health of all, will still offer the very best care they can and their professional commitment to their patients will remain unchanged.

Examinations are at the discretion of the practice and we must be mindful to respect their ultimate decision, which is never taken lightly, to provide care.

According to the Royal College of Optometrists’ Clinical Adviser Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom:

The regulations state that premises in England providing wholly or mainly medical services, including dentistry, optometry and audiology, are exempt, and as such, there is no mandate on the use of face coverings. Although this means it won’t be possible to legally enforce the wearing of face coverings, we recommend practices encourage their patients to wear face coverings unless the patient has an acceptable reason resulting in an exemption. Optometrists can request that a patient removes their face covering for any part of the examination where it affects the ability of a practitioner to perform the sight test or consultation. We know many members want patients to wear a face covering, and it is acceptable to request that, however, the exclusion of optometry from the regulations may make enforcing the policy difficult.

As regulations are subject to change at short notice, we urge you to stay up-to-date with trusted sources. In the meantime, we will continue to work with stakeholders to seek further clarity and consistency in how the public should use face coverings.

Each practice will be following guidance from both their respective government (across the United Kingdom) as well as their regulatory body. Great care and understanding are taken in both the accepting of patients for treatment as well as the refusal of treatment based on not wearing a mask.

In these difficult and new times, we urge that both practitioners and the public be mindful of the needs of both the practice, the patient and the individual.

If service is to be refused, we urge that the practice calmly and clearly explains why and offers alternative solutions to resolve the issue.

As a client who refuses service, we stress the importance of understanding that each practice follows its own policies and procedures based on the latest guidelines and what is best for its patients.

As a practitioner, you can stay up to date with the latest professional guidelines (based on government information) via the GOC website, and as a member of the public the latest government advice.

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