Hopes that the sector might soon be ‘back at it’ to a greater extent have been dashed somewhat by the government’s confusing roadmap to lifting lockdown and news today (12.05.20) that the national job retention scheme will be extended to October.

Don’t get me wrong, the job retention scheme is clearly a good thing, but the new timeframe is a psychological body blow. What initially felt like it could be a painful few months with a quick bounce back now feels like it will be more of a prolonged chapter in everyone’s lives. The College of Optometrists and Association of British Dispensing Opticians joint statement that the current clinical holding pattern remains in place until further notice just compounds this. October feels like a long way away.

Petitions in the current climate run the risk of getting lost in the noise of Covid-19, but a campaign created by Raz Yakub recently caught Optician’s eye. It called for the ‘complete
renegotiation’ of the NHS General Optical Services contract, by a newly formed organisation that better represents the optical profession and would be free of what the petition’s mission statement described as ‘conflicts of interest’ within the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC).

This leader column is neither the time nor the place to discuss any potential conflicts of interest, but I do feel it’s important to make it publicly known that the organisation has recently confirmed to Optician that talks are taking place with NHS England about the impact of the pandemic and the additional support that practices will need in the recovery post-lockdown phase. Like many of the organisations and associations in this sector, the OFNC isn’t without flaws, but it shouldn’t bear the brunt of the blame for the fees ECPs receive for their services. That damage was done a long time ago.