A subject that is extremely concerning of all those working in practice is the way NHS England has been treating optical practices and in turn undervaluing the importance of eye health care. Despite the efforts of OFNC and regular meetings, NHS England has continuously dithered over the agreement of payment for GOS services.

I speak regularly with ABDO head of policy and public affairs, Debbie McGill and hear the frustration when OFNC has presented a realistic support fee structure to NHS England to keep practices afloat during this time, and they have taken so long to make decisions. After many weeks of negotiation, a support payment was confirmed for practices who were open offering essential and urgent eye care during lockdown with the average GOS payment provided. This was great, we had support but July’s support was only confirmed and advised in July and what happens thereafter?

How can practices plan and move forward? We offer safe appointments for our patients that are taking longer and with no increase in fees. For those of us whose practices were closed we would not be paid for GOS until July 1, despite the go ahead to open again from June 15.

A further consideration for practice owners and managers is who are the best members of the practice team to bring back from furlough for the next phase? Optometrists who can provide MECS/CUES as opposed to those not accredited? The staff at the front of house? The DO who also manages the practice? The CLO who can help with MECS and free up the optometrist’s time, and who can produce sales along with children’s dispensing? These are stressful challenges that practice owners continue to face and I hope a resolution is found soon.

Jo Holmes, ABDO President