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In need of a check-up

The warm weather may have returned, but the conditions have been far from clement for the NHS in 2016

24 Aug 2016 by John White

Having been drawn into the fractious EU referendum debate by the now infamous campaign bus (promoting that leaving the Union would create £350m more a week to invest in the NHS), three months on and the realities of Brexit, how to implement it and what this means for the NHS, rumble on.

Last month, concern for the quality of hospital services since the vote was raised by Moorfields Eye Hospital chief executive, David Probert, at the organisation’s annual general meeting (20 July, London).

Highlighting that approximately 20% of the hospital’s staff are non-UK EU residents, who “worked tirelessly” for Moorfields, the CEO told the audience: “Some of them don’t know whether they can live here. That level of uncertainty is unacceptable.”

London consultant ophthalmic surgeon at St Thomas’ Hospital, David Spalton, told OT that NHS and other healthcare practice budgets are likely to be affected by the falling valuation of the pound and the higher importing costs of products and equipment. “I think it’s going to put pressure on the cost of delivering ophthalmic care,” he said.

Another area where the storm clouds continue to converge is over the failure of Capita to resolve months of late and incorrect General Ophthalmic Services payments.

A sense of consternation across the sector is mounting, reflecting the fact that problems date back to March.

In a sign of the Optical Confederation and LOCSU’s waning patience, in a letter to NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, the bodies conclude: “It is unacceptable that ophthalmic contractors continue to face delayed payments and a slow response to payment queries due to a fundamental lack of resources on Capita’s part, in terms of both insufficient staff numbers in the operational team and lack of knowledge and expertise in the customer service centre.”

The situation has also prompted the AOP to appoint a dedicated support professional to assist all NHS contractors with Capita issues.

Adding to this gloomy mix, a recent ‘NHS reset report’ – which provides an update on NHS finances and performance – revealed that 26 out of 211 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) had received a rating of “inadequate,” while a further 91 had received a “requires improvement” rating. Ouch.

While two-thirds of CCGs agree that they are “sufficiently empowered” to commission services that local patients need, the financial outlook also looks less positive, with 48% of CCGs saying that they are not confident they will achieve their ‘control total.’ How the primary care sector deals with this reality is yet to be seen.

Keeping patients rather than bureaucracy at the heart of service delivery is key – and is a topic we are investigating for the October edition. Please do get in touch if you have a perspective to share, email

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