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AOP responds to NHS reform announcement

AOP responds to NHS reform announcement

The Government’s reform plans for the NHS in England, which represent the most significant changes in a decade, offer opportunities for optometry but also carry some risks.

The AOP flagged these in January in our response to the most recent NHS England consultation, and will continue to work with others in the sector to pursue the opportunities and manage the risks.

AOP Clinical Director, Dr Peter Hampson explains: “A major upside is the shift in local commissioning from relatively small Clinical Commissioning Groups to the larger footprint of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) – this should open the way for extended eyecare services, delivered in optometry practices, to be commissioned on a wider scale, as we have long called for.”

Dr Hampson highlights a recent example of the benefits of extended services: “The development of the new Coronavirus Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES) in England last year is the most recent example of how optometrists and dispensing opticians can take on wider clinical roles and relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS.”

Illustrating the opportunities, Dr Hampson said: “Eyecare is at the forefront of NHS England’s current outpatient transformation programme, and this together with the new reforms should create exciting new clinical opportunities for the AOP’s members. Optometrists and dispensing opticians will need to get involved in the governance of ICSs, usually through their LOC, to make sure their patients’ needs are heard and understood.”

“One risk that the sector will need to continue to watch closely is that the commissioning of the GOS contract in England – the bedrock of NHS eyecare – could move to ICSs. This would create extra cost and complexity but do nothing to help patients. NHS England’s recommendations for legislative change, published alongside the White Paper on Thursday, confirmed the NHS’s continued commitment to national contractual arrangements across the primary care contractor professions. The sector will need to ensure GOS remains national” Dr Hampson explains.

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