The effect of the COVID‐19 pandemic on working practices of UK primary care optometrists
journal contributionposted on 2023-08-30, 18:09 authored by Manbir Nagra, Peter M. Allen, Yvonne Norgett, Eldré W. Beukes, Michael Bowen, Marta Vianya-Estopa
Purpose: In late 2019, a new coronavirus capable of infecting humans, SARS‐CoV‐2, was identified in Wuhan, China. The resultant respiratory disease was subsequently named COVID‐19. In March 2020, in response to the COVID‐19 pandemic, primary care optometry practices only remained open to deliver essential or emergency eye care. This study aimed to characterise the experiences of United Kingdom (UK)‐based primary care optometrists during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Methods: An email invitation to participate in an online cross‐sectional survey was sent to 3000 UK‐based, currently practicing members of The College of Optometrists (UK). Responses to the structured questionnaire were analysed using descriptive statistics, including frequencies, means and standard deviations. Frequency analyses were used to evaluate items with multiple responses. Free‐text responses were examined using thematic analyses. Results: After data cleaning, a total of 1250 responses remained. Sixty‐three percent were female, 70% self‐identified as being of white ethnicity and 78% were based in England. During the first national lockdown, over half of all respondents were involved with the provision of remote consultations for emergency/urgent care. The majority felt ‘very’/‘moderately’ comfortable conducting remote consultations, but 66% felt professional liability was increased. Forty percent were involved in the provision of face‐to‐face consultations. Eye‐health and vision‐related problems were the most commonly reported patient issues during both remote and face‐to‐face consultations, while contact‐lens related problems were the least. Thematic analysis of the responses showed several challenges adjusting to the pandemic (e.g., working safely), but also some potential benefits (e.g., increased skills). Conclusions: The findings provide an overview of changes to optometric practice in the UK during the COVID‐19 pandemic. The results may be used to inform the development of professional guidance and facilitate resource allocation for safe and effective eye care during this and any future pandemics.
Publication titleOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
- Accepted version