DHSC increases patient optical benefits in England by 4.5% from April
The Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) notes that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has today recognised that patients who depend on NHS support for essential vision correction need more help.
The DHSC has announced a 4.5% uplift to all NHS vouchers starting 1 April 2023.
Although well below both current and recent levels of inflation, this is at least a small attempt to help those patients in most need during the cost-of-living crisis.
The NHS provides support in the form of vouchers towards the cost of essential vision correction so that children and adults on means-tested benefits can obtain glasses and contact lenses. Seeing well helps children’s educational development, helps adults stay in work, and reduces the risk of falls in older adults.
As Healthwatch England, Advice NI, Public Health Wales and Scottish Government all recognise, the cost-of-living crisis is a public health challenge that impacts people on the lowest incomes the hardest. Left unaddressed, the cost-of-living crisis will widen health inequalities and life opportunities.
As this NHS patient benefit is already targeted at those in most need, the OFNC had hoped DHSC would have corrected for inflation in this very tough year for patients.
However, this small uplift is a step towards minimising the risk that NHS patients in England may put off essential eye health examinations and risk long-term damage to their eye health.