NHS optical voucher values will rise by 1% from 1 April, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Earl Howe, announced last week (11 March).The vouchers are available for children, people on low incomes and individuals with complex sight problems, to help them with the cost of purchasing spectacles.
The increase has been labeled ‘disappointing’ by the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee, which has fought hard to highlight the importance of an increase over the last 12 months.
A spokesperson for the OFNC told OT: “We are disappointed at the low voucher value increase this year. We made strong representations to the government about the importance of a realistic increase in voucher values because they affect the range and quality of spectacles optical practices can make available to patients. But despite our best efforts, the government has so far failed to address the bizarre anomaly whereby if they help patients by holding down dental and prescription charges, they conversely penalise NHS spectacle wearers.
“We will continue to press NHS England and the Department of Health on this issue.’’
The increase has also been confirmed for optical vouchers in Wales and Scotland. Details for Northern Ireland have not yet been released.
While voucher values have risen year-on-year for the last four years, increasing by 2.5%, 1% and 2%, respectively from 2012 to 2014, they had previously remained frozen from 2009 until 2011.
Annual increases to NHS dental and prescription charges were announced on the same day, with a 15p rise in the prescription charge to £8.05, and a 30p hike to the dental charge for one course of treatment to £18.80 confirmed.
An insert detailing the new optical voucher values will be included in a future edition of OT.