Will opticians stay open during the second lockdown?

2 months ago 6

ROUTINE sight tests and eye examinations were told to stop during lockdown earlier this year with only essential services being offered by optometrists and practice owners.

So, are large optician chains run by Boots, Specsavers and Optical Express open during the second coronavirus lockdown from Thursday, November 5?

 Routine sight tests and eye examinations were told to stop during lockdown earlier this year

Routine sight tests and eye examinations were told to stop during lockdown earlier this yearCredit: Getty - Contributor

Are opticians still open during the second lockdown?

The Government has yet to announce whether opticians will be allowed to remain open from Thursday. 

Branches were "open for essential and urgent services only" during the previous Government-enforced lockdown.

What did leading chains say during the last lockdown?

After the first lockdown was announced earlier this year, Specsavers said: "We’ve suspended all routine eye and hearing tests."

This was to prevent Covid-19 spreading further.

If you needed an urgent appointment or advice, you were advised to call your local outlet.

"If you’re a key worker, let us know when you call and we’ll prioritise the help we can offer you," Specsavers added.

Boots Opticians said: "To protect the health and wellbeing of our customers and our team in these challenging times, we have taken the difficult decision to temporarily close our Opticians stores across the UK." 

 Opticians were open for emergency appointments only during the first national lockdown

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Opticians were open for emergency appointments only during the first national lockdownCredit: Andrew Barr - The Sun Glasgow

Optical Express provided a Covid-19 update on its website, after PM Boris Johnson announced strict guidelines.

It said: "We are following government, public health and regulatory/professional body advice and at this time we are not currently scheduling consultations or routine sight tests.

"A small number of clinics remain open to provide essential or emergency clinical care.

"We will update you as the situation changes."

Optical Express advised those with questions or concerns regarding their eye care to contact its teams, email or use the live chat function online.

Vision Express stopped accepting appointments as its stores were also temporarily closed.

It said on its website: "We kindly ask that you follow public health body instruction and delay your appointment until this time has passed.

"If you feel that your eye appointment is an emergency please contact NHS 111 who will direct you to a regional centre which can provide the eye care, in an environment equipped to manage the infection control risks.

 Opticians are taking precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

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Opticians are taking precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirusCredit: Getty Images - Getty

Glasses Direct told The Sun Online that it was still manufacturing, and that delivery times were unaffected with customers receiving orders within three-to-ten days.

To order, customers needed a prescription from a UK Registered optician.

“However, in light of the recent Covid-19 developments, the General Optical Council - the UK regulator of opticians - has released a statement to relax the rules concerning sight test intervals (two years),” explained a spokesperson. 

This step allowed customers who needed glasses to obtain them without having to visit an optician for a new eye exam. 

But a qualified optician was still needed to approve the prescription and the new order.

The brand also launched a new initiative for NHS workers – giving them free glasses.

The spokesperson added: “With proof of ID, 2,000 pairs of glasses will be given to the extraordinary NHS staff who are working tirelessly to serve our country during this uncertain time and to help ease the worry of replacing or buying new glasses amongst the current climate.”

Are opticians key workers?

If your work is critical to the Covid-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors outlined by the government, you're regarded as a key worker.

The government says that those providing health and social care are key workers.

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers.

It doesn't specifically state that opticians are included.

But, the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee has confirmed that optical practices in the UK providing urgent and essential eye healthcare are key health services and should continue to function where possible during the Covid-19 crisis.

"The condition is that those which are able to open have in place appropriate measures to manage Covid-19 risk.

"These should include remote consultations wherever possible, closing for routine sight testing and only admitting patients on appointment for essential and urgent eye care which cannot be provided by phone, video or email," it adds.

The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) which represents 6,361 qualified dispensing opticians in the UK, points out that NHS primary care premises are exempt from general closure requirements for retail premises.

What should I do if I have an appointment booked?

Given the circumstances, the best thing to do is to check your optician's website for initial guidance.

The major chains are recommending you contact them via email, phone, or live chat for further information.

The College of Optometrists has recommended that routine sight tests and eye examinations should stop and only essential services should be offered by optometrists and practice owners.

 People needing urgent care will receive appointments

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People needing urgent care will receive appointmentsCredit: Alamy

Are opticians offering emergency appointments?

Opticians are working as usual as of November 2, 2020, but it's not known if they will have to close their doors on Thursday, November 5.

During the first lockdown essential eye care was available where a key worker or elderly person needed a sight and new spectacle prescription, had broken their glasses, or a contact lens wearer needed more lenses, or where a visually impaired person or child needed eye care.

Urgent care included urgent clinical advice or intervention, such as for red eye, contact lens discomfort, a foreign object in the eye, sudden change in vision, flashes and floaters which might suggest detachment.

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Is Moorfields Eye Hospital still open?

Moorfields tweeted on November 2 that it is still open and treating patients.

It said: "If you have an appointment, please attend.

"If you need eye care advice, call our nurse-led line on 0207 566 2345.

"For sudden sight loss or injury, log on to our online A&E service: moorfields.nhs.uk/emergency-care"

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