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Signature suspension lifted as updated patient exemption checking guidance released for ophthalmic teams

From 1 September2021, any time a patient makes a declaration that they are entitled to free or reduced cost NHS ophthalmic services, the ophthalmic team must ask them to complete and sign a GOS declaration form and to produce evidence.   

In response to the pandemic, and to help limit the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care approved a temporary measure in England to suspend the need for patients to sign for NHS ophthalmic services. The suspension was initially for a period of five months and was later extended to 31 August 2021.  

The aim of the suspension was to protect primary care staff and patients, avoid cross-contamination and help minimise the handling of paperwork when collecting medicines or receiving dental and eye care.   

The temporary signature suspension has now been lifted.   

This means that, from 1 September 2021, any time a patient attends an ophthalmic practice for NHS-funded sight tests, glasses or contact lenses, the ophthalmic team must:   

  • ask them to complete and sign a GOS declaration form before any treatment begins   
  • ask them to complete the patient’s details and patient’s declaration section of the form, if the patient is entitled to free or reduced cost NHS ophthalmic services   
  • ask to see evidence of their eligibility   
  • note on the patient record system if they show evidence of a valid exemption, along with the expiry date of the evidence, if applicable    
  • complete and sign the GOS 3 declaration where entitled. A second signature on the reverse of the GOS 3 must be obtained at the time of collection 

To coincide with the move, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has produced fresh guidance to help primary care contractors understand their legislative requirements, follow the correct procedure, and provide support to patients.  

The rules around entitlement to free or reduced cost NHS ophthalmic services can be confusing for patients. It’s important to remember that not all benefits entitle people to free or reduced cost NHS ophthalmic services. Patients can find out if they’re entitled to   help with NHS costs using the online eligibility checker: www.nhs.uk/CheckBeforeYouTick 

Full guidance and information for ophthalmic team members is available on the NHSBSA website: www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/ophthalmic-exemptions 

For information about help with health costs, visit: www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-help-health-costs  

Contact Information

Samantha Murphy

NHS Business Services Authority

samantha.murphy8@nhs.net