My local practice in England, says it will be expanding its services as we enter the “Amber Phase” of the pandemic. What does this mean?
Optometrists across England can expand their services beyond urgent and essential care, which is currently offered in Wale, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Your local practice will be able to provide patient care depending on your needs and symptoms, but will still be prioritising essential and urgent patients.
It is important to call your optometrist first, so they can assess whether you need a face-to-face appointment.
My local practice, in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, says it is only operating essential services – what does that mean?
Optometrists in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have suspended routine eye examinations but are still offering urgent and essential eye care.
If you are worried about your eyes or your vision, you can phone your optical practice or NHS 111. They will discuss your symptoms with you, or may do a video consultation with you, and advise on whether you need to come in to see an optometrist.
If you think you have coronavirus symptoms or are feeling unwell, please stay at home. Phone to let your optometrist know if you need to cancel your appointment. Do not visit the practice.
I am worried that I may have a serious problem with my eye. Where can I go for help?
Most optometrists are offering urgent and essential eye care and can help if:
Phone the practice so they can assess how best to meet your needs.
How will I secure an appointment?
So that unnecessary contact is kept to a minimum, appointments will be scheduled over the phone or online during the recovery period. You will be asked to confirm whether you or anyone in your household has the symptoms of COVID-19 (new, continuous cough; a high temperature and/or loss of or change in taste or smell), which would mean you need to self-isolate and postpone your eye care.
Currently optometric practices will not be able to offer drop-in appointments, including for repairs and dispensing, so always call and book ahead.
How will appointments work now?
You will be called on the day of your appointment to confirm that neither you nor anyone in your house have developed the symptoms of COVID-19.
You may be asked questions over the phone, which you would usually expect to be asked during an appointment, to help minimise the time spent in face-to-face conversation and to help your optometrist streamline your appointment to focus on your current needs.
Where possible, please attend the practice alone. If you require a companion for support, please let the practice know in advance so they can plan for two people attending. It is recommended that a child should only be accompanied by one parent.
Your optometrist will streamline the tests carried out, based on your needs, so it may be different to what you are used to. For the parts of the test which need to be performed within one metre, we ask that you do not speak.
Your practice will also be encouraging contactless card payment to avoid unnecessary contact.
Can parents accompany their child to appointments?
Yes, although only one parent.
Is it safe to visit the optometrists?
Your local practice will have introduced measures to ensure strict hygiene standards within the practice, and there will be procedures in place to ensure the safety of patients and staff, as far as is possible.
The practice will be closed to ‘walk ins’ and you will need to call to see if an appointment is necessary. Much can be done by phone or video consultation, and the optometrist will be able to post your glasses or contact lenses to you if you need them.
If you, or anyone you live with, has a persistent cough and/or high temperature and/or loss of, or change in taste or smell (anosmia), do not enter the practice. Do not go to a GP, pharmacy or hospital. Return home and stay there for 14 days.
Will I have to wear a mask and gloves?
Please wear a cloth covering, such as a scarf or bandana, over your mouth and nose to your appointment, as you would if using public transport. If you require a covering, please let the practice know before your appointment. Gloves are not necessary, but please sanitize your hands when you arrive and avoid touching anything as much as possible.
Watch this video on how to wear a fabric mask safely:
Will I have to queue outside?
If your local practice doesn’t have the space to provide socially distanced seating inside their waiting area, you may need to wait outside at a suitable distance. As you will have a pre-booked appointment you should not have to wait very long. Alternatively, if there is parking nearby, you may choose to wait in your car and asked to be called on the phone when your optometrist is ready to see you for your appointment.
Will the practice look different to before?
Your local practice will have made several changes to make it easier to maintain social distancing.
There should be hand sanitiser available at the entrance for you to use when you arrive and leave. The seats in the waiting room will be spaced apart and there will be clearly visible markings on the floor to help you maintain social distancing. All unnecessary items which could be touched by multiple people, such as magazines and toys, will have been removed from the waiting/reception area.
Will my optometrists be wearing PPE?
All practice staff will be wearing appropriate PPE if they will be under two metres distance from you, unless behind a Perspex screen.
Your optometrist will be wearing a single-use apron and gloves, as well as a mask. In some cases, they may be wearing a face shield or goggles is there is an anticipated or likely risk due to the procedures being carried out. In areas where a two-metre distance cannot be observed, such as the reception area, non-clinical staff may also wear a face shield and mask.
How can I help myself and others stay safe during my appointment?
You can do a lot to help protect your optometrist, other patients and yourself during your visit. Wash your hands thoroughly before leaving your home, sanitise your hands when you arrive at and leave the practice, avoid touching anything as much as possible, and bring tissues to catch sneezes (‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’). You may also bring your own pen in case you need to sign anything.
In line with government advice, if a two-metre social distance cannot be maintained throughout your journey to the practice, please wear a face-covering over your mouth and nose.
If I or someone in my household have symptoms on COVID-19, but also a life- or sight-threatening condition, can I see my optometrist in practice?
Call your optometrist, they can complete a telephone review consultation and arrange referral to an eye treatment centre who can safely manage you sight threatening eye condition. If you cannot contact your local optometrist call NHS 111.
I’m housebound and my optometrist usually visits me at home. Will they still be visiting?
The governments have suspended home visits in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. We are waiting for formal advice about this for England. If you are worried about your eyes or your vision, you can phone your practice. They will discuss your symptoms with you and advise on what to do.
Is there any advice for people living sight loss during the pandemic?
UK vision charities have produced some advice for people living with sight loss during the pandemic.
My prescription is out-of-date and I need new contact lenses or glasses, I can’t get to the optometrist. What should I do?
Phone the practice and explain the situation. You will be asked a number of questions to help the optometrist decide whether they can issue you with a temporary supply of contact lenses or replacement glasses, without having to examine your eyes.
In England, during the Amber phase, you can visit your local practice for an appointment, if they decide it is necessary based on your needs, however, the practice can still supply you remotely.
How can I get my vision checked remotely?
During the pandemic, optometrists are providing urgent or emergency and essential eyecare services only. If you have a problem with your eyes you should contact your optometrist in the first instance by phone or email. They will then ask you some questions to help them advise you as to what to do next. As part of this they may ask you to estimate how clearly you can see. To help with this we have developed this chart for you to print off at home and place at a distance of 3 metres from your eyes:
You should try to read the smallest line of letters that you can see with each eye separately wearing the glasses that you use to watch television if you have them. The figures in bold will tell your optometrist what size letters you are reading. If you cannot read the letters at 3m, you can move the chart to 1 metre away from you and try again. Make sure you tell your optometrist how far the chart is from you when you read the letters.
Watch our video on how to use a home sight test chart:
Should I stop wearing my contact lenses during this pandemic?
There have been several media reports relating to the safety of contact lens use in this pandemic. We have seen no evidence to suggest that wearing contact lenses would increase a person’s chances of contracting COVID-19. You can continue to use your contact lenses as normal if you do not have COVID-19 or any of the associated symptoms (fever and/or a new and continuous cough and/or loss of, or change in taste or smell (anosmia)).
It is good general advice to reduce your contact lens wearing time if you do not need to wear your lenses and can manage with spectacles, as may well be the case if you are at home more. If you wish to wear your contact lenses, you should practise good contact lens hygiene as always, and thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling your lenses is essential.
We would also advise that if you are ill, you should stop wearing contact lenses until you are better. This applies to all illnesses, including the common cold, influenza and COVID-19.
If you are in the same household as a person with symptoms of COVID19 you may wish to stop contact lens wear until everyone in the house is well.
What’s the best way to keep my glasses clean and hygienic?
Clean your glasses regularly, using soapy water. Make sure you clean ALL parts of your glasses, including nosepads and sides. Dry your glasses afterwards with a clean glasses cloth or a soft, clean tea towel.
Do not use antibacterial gel for cleaning your glasses.
Is it safe to use comfort drops or artificial tear drops?
You are more likely to rub your eyes if they are irritated so, if you use comfort drops or any other eye drops, you should continue to insert them as directed. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before putting the drops in your eyes.
Is it safe to wear make up?
It is ok to continue using your own make-up, but make sure that it is not out of date. However, you should never share your make-up – especially eye make-up – or borrow anyone else’s. And make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before applying or removing make up.
I have a medical condition and am waiting for the DVLA to renew my driving licence. Can I continue to drive while I’m waiting?
With NHS staff focused on the nationwide response to Coronavirus, there are likely to be significant delays in NHS doctors, consultants or optometrists providing the DVLA with the information they need to make a decision on renewing your licence. So, providing you have a current driving licence and you have not been told by your optometrist or doctor that you should not drive, you can continue to drive while DVLA is considering your application. However, if your condition worsens you must inform the DVLA as soon as possible.
Please make sure that you only use official channels for news, updates and advice on coronavirus.
Updated: 17 June 2020