AOP response to Government NHS reform plans
In February 2021, the UK Government set out reform plans for the NHS in England. The Health and Care Bill, which was introduced to Parliament yesterday, is intended to provide the legal basis for these changes.
The AOP and the other members of the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) are in discussion with NHS England on what the plans will mean for optometry and the opportunities it can open up for the sector.
AOP Clinical Director, Dr Peter Hampson explains: “A significant upside of the new plans is that local commissioning of eye care services will move from Clinical Commissioning Groups to larger Integrated Care Boards. That should pave the way for more consistent commissioning of extended eye care services delivered in High Street optometric practices.
The benefits of such services are proven – most recently in the form of the new Coronavirus Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES) launched in England last year.
“The new Bill confirms this direction of travel, and could enable NHS England to make maximum use of the clinical skills of optometrists and dispensing opticians, helping to relieve pressure on the NHS.”
In February the AOP flagged potential risks around the reforms relating to GOS commissioning, and we continue to work with others in the sector to manage those risks.
Dr Hampson highlighted: “Earlier this year we warned that devolving the commissioning of the GOS contract in England from national level would create extra cost and complexity, for no benefit. We and the other optical bodies have pressed for reassurance that GOS will remain nationally negotiated, and the response has been positive. The OFNC will issue an update about this in the coming days.”
Last month, the AOP published our Strategy for Optometry – outlining our view of the future of optometry to provide consistent and efficient eye care for all across the UK.