Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
In light of the latest evidence and the announcement made by the First Minister earlier today, we will be moving optometry and dental services into the next phase of recovery from 22 June. This will enable optometry and dental practices to provide a wider range of services as part of their plans to return to normal services.
We will continue to work with health boards and NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership to ensure practices can access appropriate levels of Personal Protective Equipment.
In May a recovery action plan for return to normal services was issued to optometry practices in Wales. To support the transition into the Amber phase of the recovery plan, further guidance was provided to enable practices to implement appropriate social distancing measures for the safety of the public and the workforce. The guidance includes a “return to work” self-assessment tool for optometry practices to complete and return to NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership prior to opening.
In line with the announcement today to ease lockdown measures, optometry practices will complete the self-assessment tool and move to the recovery plan Amber phase from Monday 22 June. Some practices may need and welcome time to prepare for re-opening, ensuring they are equipped with PPE to start seeing NHS patients and we fully support that requirement.
A limited number of optometry practices, aligned to primary care clusters, have remained open to provide urgent and essential eye care during the Red Phase of service delivery. The movement into the Amber Phase of recovery will enable these practices to move quickly to start to address a wider range of eye care conditions.
Due to the large demand on the service and the requirements for social distancing and necessary infection control procedures, capacity will be limited and those NHS patients with the greatest clinical need will be prioritised.
We have been clear the resumption of dental services needs to be gradual to protect dental practice staff and patients as Covid-19 is still in circulation in Wales. Our aim continues to implement a safe, phased, risk-based re-establishment of essential dental services.
The indicative date for the Red dental alert to lift was 1 July. Given the easement of other lockdown measures announced today and the knowledge that a number of practices are ready to re-introduce more treatments it is proposed to lift the Red alert on the 22 June.
The majority of practices and health boards still need and welcome the time available before 1 July to prepare, and we fully support that requirement. However, practices who are ready to implement the Standard Operating Process published on 10 June, particularly those who are already equipped with enhanced PPE and can implement all other measures to re-introduce aerosol generating procedures safely, should contact their health board and/or Healthcare Inspectorate Wales to give confirmation and assurance.
Some health boards are actively identifying practices to be designated non-Covid-19 aerosol generating procedure hubs to compliment the work of the urgent dental centres. This lifting of Red alert allows that process to be progressed in all health boards.