General Optical Council (GOC) statement on supply of spectacles and contact lenses during COVID-19 emergency


GOC/COVID/02
Date of statement: 19 March 2020
General Optical Council (GOC) statement on supply of spectacles
and contact lenses during COVID-19 emergency
1. In these extraordinary times, we are fortunate that in all four countries of the
United Kingdom we have a group of exceptionally well qualified eye care
professionals on whom the general public and fellow healthcare professionals
can rely. Uncertain times mean that our registrants may be called upon to work
at the limits of their scope of practice and vary their practice for protracted
periods of time and in challenging circumstances.
2. In this statement we hope to reassure our registrants that when they act in
good conscience, for the public benefit, exercising professional judgement in all
of the circumstances that apply, the GOC will support them.
3. Along with all other healthcare regulators, the GOC has signed a joint
regulatory statement which acknowledges that registrants will need to act
differently and deliver care in different ways during the COVID-19 emergency in
line with Government and public health guidance. The GOC will take account of
this in fulfilling its regulatory functions along with the following statement in
response to a question regarding whether it is necessary to attend for a sight
test or contact lens fitting/check in order to be able to purchase spectacles
and/or contact lenses in the current environment.
4. The relevant legal requirements are set out below.
Issuing spectacles
5. There are no legal restrictions on the supply of spectacles by or under the
supervision of GOC registered optometrists and dispensing opticians, including
for users aged under 16 or registered sight-impaired / severely sight-impaired
(section 27 of Opticians Act). If there is no clinical need for a patient to attend
an optical practice, optical businesses should be considering posting or
delivering spectacles to the patient.
6. If there is a clinical need, then during the COVID-19 emergency period,
business registrants, optometrists and dispensing opticians should consider the
risk of requiring a patient to attend an optical practice and potentially
contracting or spreading coronavirus compared to any clinical risk of supplying
spectacles, and use their professional judgement to decide on the best course
of action.
Issuing contact lenses
7. In order to supply contact lenses, the patient must have an in-date contact lens
specification which has been issued following a contact lens fitting/check. The
contact lens fitting itself can only begin if the patient has had a sight test that

has been issued with a prescription in the last two years and before any re-
examination date specified in the prescription (section 25(1A(b) of the Opticians

Act). There is no requirement for how long a contact lens specification should
last, but good practice in the profession suggests up to two years. If the contact
lens specification has expired, this would ordinarily result in GOC registrants
and/or businesses withholding supply of contact lenses to patients until they
have attended the optical practice for a sight test and/or a contact lens
fitting/check.
8. If the contact lens specification is current and there is no clinical need to attend
an optical practice, optical businesses should be considering posting or
delivering contact lenses to the patient.
9. If there is a clinical need, or the specification has expired, then during the
COVID-19 emergency period, business registrants, optometrists and contact
lens opticians should consider the risk of requiring a patient to attend an optical
practice and potentially contracting or spreading coronavirus compared to any
clinical risk of supplying contact lenses on an expired specification, and use
their professional judgement to decide on the best course of action.
Exercising professional judgement
10. In making this judgement, registrants should take account of:

• public health advice at the time in question (some individuals may be self-
isolating and unable to attend, public transport may not be available, and

some domiciliary visits may no longer be possible for instance);
• patient vulnerability (Government definition available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-
distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-
everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults);

• relevant clinical advice;
• how long it has been since the last sight test or contact lens fitting/check;
• whether the original expiration of the specification was less than two years;
• the nature of any specific clinical risks; and
• how quickly the business could see the patient following the emergency
period in order to minimise any risk.

Recording your decisions
11. Registrants should make a note of their decisions, and the reasons for their
decisions, in the patient records, including for the duration of any supply of
contact lenses and aftercare plans.
The GOC will keep this statement under review
12. Next routine review due: not later than 30 April 2020.

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