Staffordshire LOC COVID-19 Update 5th May 2020 at Staffordshire Local Optical Committee

Staffordshire LOC COVID-19 Update 5th May 2020

Dear Colleagues,
It has been just over three weeks since the last formal update from the LOC. We have been in regular contact with NHS England, NHS Acute trusts, CCGs, LOCSU, PES and other professional bodies. This has resulted in an exceptionally busy time for the LOC.
The LOC recently managed to acquire an emergency supply of PPE from the CCG Logistics cell. We have co-ordinated distribution across Staffordshire practices which are open during COVID-19. Allocation has been prioritised according to activity levels and PPE need. This process is still ongoing but if your practice is in need of PPE and has not yet been allocated any, then contact Alison at the LOC Office. Please note that the supply is limited and designed to be an interim measure to ensure practices have enough PPE for another months activity.
There is still no word from NHSE regarding PPE supply direct to practitioners or LOC but we are still pursuing this avenue. Meanwhile, a new non-profit buying route has just been established with the help of joint initiative between LOC Support unit (LOCSU) and Primary Eyecare Services Ltd (PES). This resource is available to ALL Optical practices, whether they are subcontracted to PES or not. While this is an interim arrangement with limited supply, it is most welcome at a time when it seems that PPE requirements are here to stay for the foreseeable future. 
This online shop can be accessed by using this link:
COVID-19 Urgent Eye Care Services (CUES)
  • NHS England has now provided a clear framework/service specification of how they would like to see urgent eye care delivery during the pandemic, which I'm sure you are already aware of.
  • There are recommendations for primary care Optometry to work closely with secondary care health care professionals so patients can access the eye care they need close to home, while minimising risk of COVID-19 infection. Optometrists will triage, manage and prioritise patients attending with an urgent eye conditions. Face to face appointment will only be warranted if remote triage and consultation identifies the need.
  • The clinical pathways for CUES have been developed by joint collaboration between College Of Optometrists & Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
  • The service specification for Minor Eye conditions service (MECS) already match most of what is required in CUES. The key difference is that CUES framework includes an enhanced level of care of required, to help keep the patient out of a hospital setting/ seen close to home. This involves using Independent Prescribing (IP), Higher Glaucoma, other enhanced skillsets as well as Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT) scanning in community Optical practices.
  • At the moment, MECS is already commissioned in 5 of the 6 CCG areas in Staffordshire. Prior to COVID-19, talks were ongoing for MECS provision in East Staffordshire. These discussions have now transitioned to CUES. For those regions where MECS is already commissioned, our understanding is that service specification amendment will need to be agreed so primary eye care practitioners can triage, manage and prioritise patients attending with an urgent eye condition in accordance with CUES service framework.
  • Primary Eyecare Services (PES) has also gathered expressions of interest from its subcontractor practices across Staffordshire and surveyed them on available enhanced skillsets and equipment. They have written to all Staffs CCGs regarding CUES commissioning. LOC has also separately contacted the CCGs to discuss options on moving forward. We are still waiting for a response.
  • Once commissioned, CUES will simply replace MECS, during the COVID-19 period.Tariffs are yet to be determined but it is understood that there will be an additional fee for enhanced consultations using IP Optometrists, OCT scans and other skillsets. It is likely that IT platform will stay the same albeit with some adjustments. Just for your own understanding at this point, I am attaching CUES model pathway below.
  • For the moment, you are to carry on delivering essential and urgent eye care using GOS and MECS as appropriate, with COVID-19 measures in place. 
Post COVID-19/ Recovery phase/ Exit Phase
The Optical bodies are in process of putting together guidance as to what the 'new normal' will actually look like. This will involve staff risk assessment, social distancing measures, PPE for staff and appropriate disinfection controls. So please do look out for further announcements.
As you can imagine, there will be an unprecedented avalanche of activity at NHS Acute trusts when lockdown measures start to ease. It is expected that community Optical practitioners will have a significant role to play to ensure this goes smoothly. Discussions on service spec/ pathways to achieve this will start after CUES commisioning process has concluded.
One that is clear, higher college qualifications like Independent Prescribing (IP) and Higher Glaucoma certificates will be very much in demand in the post-COVID phase pathways. You may be aware that the LOC has secured a workforce training grant to support practitioners who are interested in acquiring these qualifications. The first batch of LOC supported practitioners are already in process of attaining their certificates.
If you would like to be part of this exciting initiative, then please contact Alison at the LOC with your expression of interest ASAP. There is funding still available but this is limited and demand will be high.
Secure electronic communications (NHS.NET)
Some of you may already have address for your practices. LOC is keen to ensure every practice has one such account. There are talks about how the process to acquire this will be simplified by NHS England. It is evident that secure communication platform would be very useful both for CUES but also Post COVID-19 pathways. So watch this space for further updates!
COVID-19 Testing for Optical Professional/ Staff and household members
I am attaching document on how Optical staff can access National Testing programme for essential workers and their household members, who are self isolating. This process is constantly being updated. If you require additional guidance and support on these matters, then contact COVID Staff testing team on:
 Update Links
Please do read all the relevant updates yourself and share with all your staff. Hope you find these updates useful. Any feedback is always welcomed. Meanwhile, take care and be safe!
Kind Regards,
Irfan Razvi
Staffordshire Local Optical Committee

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