June 11th 2020

Moving into The Amber Period

During these unprecedented times it is important to understand the working practices that opticians across the country are currently experiencing. Going forward, as the government works towards Monday 15 June as a reopen date, both practitioners and clients are expected to experience a different type of service following the global outbreak of Coronavirus. In our latest blog, we examine the movement from the ‘red phase’ to the ‘amber phase’ based and what this means for the public and the optical profession.

Currently, national policies have made it clear that at present, practices can only provide essential and urgent/emergency eye care and that clients ought to bear this in mind when seeking an appointment with their optician. The definition of ‘urgent/emergency eye care’ is open to some degree of professional judgement and interpretation, in order to enable practitioners to act in patients’ best interests, but that does not mean that business is operating as ‘normal’. As we enter the amber period, the below chart illustrates what this means for practices and the public. The full chart can be downloaded via the College of Optometrists’ website.

Optometric primary eye care during the COVID-19 pandemic

What to Expect?

As the COVID-19 infection rates decrease, it is expected that practices across the UK will be able to see more patients. This does not, however, mean that there will be a return to routine eye care immediately. When the national policies change, eye examinations should only be provided for patients with needs or symptoms, only when PPE is available, and per the College of Optometrists’ recommended clinical practice modifications should be put in place in order to ensure the safety of both clients and practitioners.

Currently, these policies remain in place and will be revised and potentially changed based on the national health systems in each of the four nations. This decision will further clarify the dates and levels of primary eye care that can be delivered may be different across the four nations.

What does this mean for both professionals and clients?

Given the challenging nature of the current situation the ability of a practice to provide a service may be extremely limited. The OCCS recommends the following advice to maintain a professional service and to engage with patients and clients.

For Practitioners

  • Maintain a clear dialogue with patients and clients.
  • Expect an increase in phone calls or emails from concerned clients who may be looking for advice or to discuss a concern
  • Follow the guidelines published by the GOC and College of Optometrists closely as they change frequently
  • Be empathetic to the needs and frustrations of clients who, too, are experiencing a very difficult and uncertain time.

For Clients

  • Use your judgement in assessing your requirements for an ‘urgent appointment’, if possible, speak to your optician around your symptoms or concerns
  • Expect that service may be reduced or suspended
  • Openly engage with your optical professional to understand how they are operating and what their reopening plans/level of service may be
  • Understand that they too are working based on ever changing guidelines and that they may not have all of the answers currently.

The OCCS is committed to support both clients and practitioners during these challenging times. For more information our teams can be reached via enquiries@opticalcomplaints.co.uk or call on 0344 800 5071. 

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