August 3rd 2021

Masks and COVID-19 Measures After 19 July

On 19 July, England witnessed the easing of many restrictions that have been in place across the United Kingdom for over a year that have impacted many areas of all our lives.

In today’s blog, we outline if you, as a patient, need to wear a mask when visiting your opticians and what measures practices are advised to have in place.

Professional bodies in the UK have issued guidance for ongoing infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in primary eye care practices in England, including mask wearing and social distancing, as the country moves out of national lockdown restrictions.

Further to this the government has reiterated that health and care settings should maintain IPC measures.

In a joint statement by the Association of Optometrists, the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, the College of Optometrists and FODO, the Association for Eye Care Providers, the organisations shared support for the need to maintain ‘robust IPC measures’.

The organisations confirmed that, from 19 July, optical practices should continue to follow the College of Optometrists’ amber phase guidance and the NHS England/Improvement Optical Standard Operating Procedures (NHSEI SOP).

For clients this means that optical practices are advised to continue to use PPE, maintain social distancing, good ventilation throughout practices and ensure the use of hand sanitiser where appropriate.

The regulatory bodies also recommend that patients and the public continue to wear face coverings when on practice premises, including when receiving eye care. However, should a patient choose not to wear a mask they also recommend that the practice takes measures to reduce the risk to all involved.

This can include taking a risk assessment to consider whether to:

  • Request that the patient wears a mask for close contact care only in the test room or dispensing area
  • Booking the patient into a quieter appointment slot, in a separated area
  • Or booking the patient with another member of staff if the original team member is high-risk or uncomfortable seeing a patient without a mask.

Do Practice Staff Still Need to Wear Face Masks?

Yes, all members of the practice team should continue to follow the IPC guidance and wear appropriate PPE, including the sessional use of fluid resistant surgical masks (FRSM).

In these difficult and emotive times, the OCCS urges that both professionals and the public be mindful of this transition period and to seek to understand each other.

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