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My local practice says it is only operating essential services – what does that mean?
Optometrists in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and most optometrists in England, 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. 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:

  • your vision has suddenly changed or become blurry
  • you have a painful or red eye
  • you have been advised to attend the practice by NHS 111 or another healthcare professional for urgent eye care
  • you have broken or lost your glasses and need a replacement pair to function
  • you have a problem with your contact lenses

Phone the practice so they can assess how best to meet your needs.

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.

Visit NHS 111 online for more information

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.

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:

Visual Acuity chart for remote sight tests (22 April 2020)

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:

Will my cataract operation still be going ahead?
No – hospitals are postponing routine appointments and operations until further notice.

I recently had a cataract operation and was advised that I would have my follow-up examination at my local optometrists. Will this still go ahead?
Phone your practice to check this is still going ahead. In some areas it may be possible to do this by phone or video consultation so you don’t need to leave home.

Should I stop wearing their 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.

Watch our video for more useful information on wearing contact lenses.

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.

Watch our video for more useful info on 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: 19 May 2020