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Announcement from RCOphth President Bernie Chang: Preparing eyecare services for a potential COVID-19 second wave

10 August 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We continue to work in uncertain times and the threat of a ‘second wave’ of the pandemic remains a possibility. We also know that this is likely to be compounded by the winter pressures placed on the system. We all have to be vigilant, be prepared and support our services to the best of our capabilities.

I know that everyone working in eye care services made a huge effort to put in place measures to protect our patients and our colleagues in the first wave. As medical professionals, we are best placed to lead the transformation of services and to put in place all the learnings from the initial response to the pandemic, which seems a lifetime ago.

The RCOphth continues to work with NHSE and other nation’s governments and health ministers to support our workforce and to ensure that ophthalmology is recognised as an essential service.  In the past few months, we have worked with NHSE to develop the CUES specification to support the continuation of urgent eye care services and I know that many eye units were already working with their optometric colleagues to put in better communications and co-working for the benefit of our patients.

A second wave may mean deployment again for trainees and consultants, but what we also know is that, while disruptive, our members did what was asked without hesitation in support of our colleagues across the healthcare system.

We worked with our specialist societies to develop COVID-19 guidance swiftly and this agile way of working will continue to ensure we meet the needs of our members and patients during these unprecedented times.  We will continue to monitor the advice and work with our partners, other medical royal colleges, charities and the Academy to be constructive and collaborative where needed, and hold to account where services and support fall short in the protection of our patients and the workforce.

Our membership data shows that BAME make up over 36% of ophthalmologists. We now know of the disproportionate affect the pandemic has had on both BAME patients and the workforce. We must ensure that appropriate measures and support are put in place, working with your trusts, infection control teams and hospital managers. We need to protect all staff and ensure they work in appropriate and safe settings should a second wave occur.

My overriding message is to be prepared, put in place the new ways of working that have been proven to overwhelmingly support patients, such as video consultation, increased collaborative care with optometric colleagues in the community.  Continue to work with your trusts and managers to ensure enough PPE is available to meet the guidance the RCOphth has recommended. Most of all communicate with each other and your patients and put in good risk stratification to ensure none are put at unnecessary risk of sight loss. We have outlined the key principles to meet the possibility of a second wave – Preparing Eye Care Services for a Potential COVID-19 Second Wave We hope you will find this useful.

As always, please do contact me if you wish to share concerns at [email protected].

Please continue to stay safe and healthy.