23 January 2024

College responds to Labour’s partnership plans for eye care

Shadow Health Minister, Karin Smyth MP, has outlined Labour’s plans to support improved eye care services.

In an address at the Institute for Government‘s Annual Conference, she underlined the Labour Party’s commitment to cutting waiting lists across the healthcare landscape, and specifically revealed planned initiatives aimed at improving eye care. 

Plans include negotiating a deal with high street optometrists to deliver NHS outpatient appointments.  

Utilising the skills of optometrists, and the specialist equipment already in many practices, would provide appointments for patients sooner, and enable hospital eye care teams to treat patients in need of emergency or more complex care. In addition, the minister explained how ‘having more routine appointments delivered on the high street would also be less expensive to the taxpayer’.  

Speaking about the announcement, The College of Optometrists President, Professor Leon Davies FCOptom, said: 

“The College of Optometrists welcomes Labour's proposed initiative to improve eye care delivery, while ensuring excellent patient care and reducing unnecessary sight loss. Enhanced national services, that effectively utilise the full skills and competencies of optometrists and colleagues working in primary eye care, would reduce the burden on current NHS hospital services and result in better outcomes for patients.” 

The College’s Workforce Vision, unveiled a year ago, endorses utilising the full skills and competences of optometrists, and champions a UK-wide first-contact scheme, for optometrists to manage and treat more patients in primary care. 

Leon continued:

“We encourage all health decision-makers to continue to engage with us and other professional bodies, to achieve a well-informed strategy for eye health care that ensures all patients in England can access care close to home and without long waits.” 

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