Routine eye examinations were suspended in England when lockdown began in March 2020.

Since then, opticians have been working hard to provide emergency and essential eye care for people who have a developed sudden change in their vision, to make sure no-one was without the help that they needed.

Routine eye examinations restarted on 15 June 2020 in England only (there are different arrangements in place in the rest of the UK). There are strict infection control precautions in place to protect patients and staff from coronavirus. This includes the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as gloves, mask, visor and aprons, and cleaning of the consulting room and equipment before and after each patient.

The time you are in the consulting room will be reduced as much as possible, so you may find that some of the tests you normally have will be left out this time. This is because the optometrist has listened to your symptoms and looked at your eye health history and picked out the tests that are essential only. Some opticians have opted to call patients before their appointments to go through some general questions about their eye health and general health so that less time is required in the consulting room.

Social distancing will be maintained in the practice whenever possible. Some of the tests carried out in an eye test cannot be done without coming closer, for this reason patients will be asked to wear a mask too. Screens will be used in many practices in the reception and spectacle dispensing area.

In addition to these precautions you will be asked whether you or anyone else in your family have symptoms of coronavirus. You will be asked to contact the practice again when you have the all clear. It is very important that you do not attend if you are in any doubt about this.

Most practices have greatly reduced number of appointments available because of the time it takes to clean equipment and to reduce the number of people in the waiting areas, so you may have to wait a few more days than usual to get an appointment. If you have noticed a sudden change in your vision, make sure you tell the receptionist so that you can be seen urgently. It is strongly advised that you call your optician before going to the practice because many have a closed door, appointment-only policy to ensure that social distancing is possible.

Patient and staff safety are the highest priority so your optician will ask you a few questions as why you need the appointment. You may find that they recommend that you wait a little longer before having an eye test if you are not having any eye-related symptoms and you are at risk of serious complications should you develop coronavirus.

More information

For more information about the safety measures that opticians are putting in place, check out this short film from the College of Optometrists or download a transcript of the film (Word).