ROUTINE sight tests and eye examinations must stop, while only essential services should be offered by optometrists and practice owners, says the College of Optometrists.
So, are large optician chains run by Boots, Specsavers and Optical Express open during the coronavirus lockdown?
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Are opticians still open today during the coronavirus lockdown?
Specsavers says that its branches are "open for essential and urgent services only" during the current, Government-enforced lockdown.
It adds: "We’ve suspended all routine eye and hearing tests."
This is to prevent Covid-19 spreading further.
But, if you need an urgent appointment or advice, you are 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 adds.
Boots Opticians says: "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."
Specifically, its Opticians stores:
- In Scotland and Wales will close at the end of the day on Tuesday, March 24
- Stores in England and Northern Ireland will close at the end of the day on Wednesday March 25
- A small number of stores will remain open to care for those with essential eye needs
- If you have a problem with your glasses or contact lenses that cannot wait, or have an eyesight problem that means you need emergency care, the Boots Opticians team can be contacted on 0345 125 3768 for advice
Optical Express has also provided a Covid-19 update on its website, after PM Boris Johnson announced strict guidelines last night.
It says: "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 advises those with questions or concerns regarding their eye care to contact its teams, email or use the live chat function online.
Vision Express is also not accepting appointments as of today – as its stores are also temporarily closing – and anticipates reopening in four weeks' time, depending on government guidelines.
It says 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.
Glasses Direct has told The Sun Online that it is still manufacturing, and that delivery times are currently unaffected – so customers will receive orders within three-to-ten days.
To order, customers need 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),” explains a spokesperson.
This step allows customers who need glasses to obtain them without having to visit an optician for a new eye exam.
But a qualified optician will still need to approve the prescription and the new order.
The brand is also about to launch a new initiative for NHS workers – giving them free glasses over the next month.
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.
Are opticians offering emergency appointments?
Some opticians are offering emergency appointments, and their websites provide further information on this.
Others are advising people to contact NHS 111, which will direct you to a regional centre that can provide the eye care, in an environment equipped to manage the infection control risks.
Currently, according to ABDO, essential eye care is available where a key worker or elderly person needed a sight and new spectacle prescription, has broken their glasses, where a contact lens wearer needs more lenses, or where a visually impaired person or child needs eye care.
Urgent care includes 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.
Is Moorfields Eye Hospital still open?
Moorfields Eye Hospital will "continue to provide urgent and emergency eye care for everyone who needs it".
In response to the current coronavirus situation, Moorfields says it's "deferring all non-urgent treatment from Monday March 23.
"This is being done on the basis of clinical need; our doctors and nurses are reviewing each person’s requirements individually.
"We are doing this to minimise the number of people having to travel to a clinic, as well as ensuring we are using NHS staff and resources wisely.
"Please be assured that someone at Moorfields will be in touch with you shortly if your appointment is affected.
"If you feel your eye health is deteriorating, please contact our nurse-led helpline on 0207 566 2345 for advice."
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