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AOP expresses deep concerns

Association of Optometrists responds to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announcement

Deep concern over NHS plan that fails to understand the essential primary care services that will address health crisis

Today Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey promised improved access to GPs, including same-day appointments for those that need them, as part of a new NHS ‘plan for patients’ in England.

But responding to the announcement, Adam Sampson, Chief Executive of the Association of Optometrists said: “While we wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of today’s announcement, it’s clear that the plan does not understand the primary health care family that ultimately is the answer to the high-quality and safe care every patient deserves.”

“We’re facing a growing healthcare crisis where demand for services is at an all-time high. Yet for eye care complaints, in which over a quarter of patients (32%)[i] turn to their GP for help, there is a simple solution that is largely being ignored.

“Like pharmacists, the network of community-based optometrists working in high streets up and down the country provides a huge potential resource for the NHS to use and help alleviate the pressure on GPs. And unlike stretched ophthalmology teams working in hospital departments, optometry has no significant shortage of staff and is already trained with the clinical skills needed to deliver expert care.

“The challenges facing the NHS must be addressed by a properly considered plan – and one that is forged alongside the healthcare professionals that deliver care.

“We therefore urge the Minister to engage with the skilled primary care workforce – of which optometry is a part – that is ready to protect the NHS now and have a meaningful impact on the lives of patients.”

The Government’s Plan for patients makes an inaccurate reference to ‘ophthalmology’ when referring in fact to optometry’s role in primary care. The Association of Optometrists has written to the Department of Health and Social Care asking them to urgently correct the error in the document.

[i] General Optical Council Public perceptions research 2019.

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