On even footing

A new model would draw from the full range of clinical expertise within primary eye care, recognising it as equivalent to general practice

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There is a niggling suspicion that plays in the back of many optometrists’ minds as they spend hours in a darkened room each day, tucked away from public view.

Are we being forgotten about? Is the contribution that I make each day acknowledged or even understood in the corridors where decisions are made?

The new Optometry First model, launched this week, is a step towards bringing optometry out of the shadows.

Optical bodies worked with NHS England to develop the vision for a comprehensive primary eye care service, with plans for Optometry First to be commissioned at scale using a consistent service specification.

Commissioners would be encouraged to take advantage of the full range of clinical expertise within primary eye care, recognising it as the equivalent to general practice.

As part of initial groundwork, NHS England is testing the model within some areas in order to build an evidence base for scaling up the approach across England.

Optometrists can learn more about Optometry First by getting in touch with their local optical committee, representative body or the Local Optical Committee Support Unit.

Optometry First has the potential to address growing waiting lists for hospital eye care in England by making the best use of resources and skills within the community.

This week the BBC reported that one in nine people within England are on a hospital waiting list. It is expected that the backlog will only begin to fall in 2024.

Last year data from 12 NHS hospitals across London and Bedfordshire revealed that patients who received cataract surgery in 2021 had waited an average of nine months or more. Waiting times increased 36% between 2020 and 2021.

Please get in touch with your views on how the provision of eye care within the UK should change. OT has dedicated the June/July print edition to the ophthalmology backlog and the transformation of primary eye care.