What does the spring Budget means for optics?

Funding to alleviate business rate woes, and higher tax rates for locums feature in announcement


Practice owners concerned about a business rates shakeup were offered relief through the spring Budget.

Chancellor Philip Hammond also detailed an increase in self-employed national insurance contributions and measures to ease the burden on stretched accident and emergency departments in the announcement on Wednesday (8 March).

The Budget provides welcome relief for practice owners concerned about the recent revaluation of business rates. Three measures were announced to mitigate the impact of the revaluation of business rates on those most adversely affected.

No business that is losing small business rate relief will see its bill increase by more than £50 a month. There will be a discount for 90% of pubs, and a £300m discretionary fund for local authorities to provide relief to businesses affected by the change.

However, locum optometrists may have to tighten their purse strings following the Budget announcements, with an increase in self-employed national insurance contributions on the horizon.

From April 2018, class 4 national insurance contributions will increase from 9% to 10%.  This rate will then increase to 11% by April 2019. The hike will affect only self-employed individuals with profits above £16,250.

The Government will also consider if there is a case for greater parity in parental benefits between the employed and self-employed.

The Government signalled its support for sustainability and transformation plans (STP), which received a £325m funding boost. The three-year cash injection for STPs will support capital investment where there is the strongest case to deliver improvements for patients, while ensuring a sustainable financial position for the health service.

A £100m fund was earmarked for addressing inappropriate admissions to accident and emergency departments. The funding would be targeted to make sure patients were accessing the most appropriate care as quickly as possible – for example, by improving the assessment of patients when they arrive at A&E, and increasing onsite GP facilities.

Therapeutic research also received a lift through the spring Budget, with a £90m cash injection to fund PhD places. The vast majority (85%) of those places will be reserved for academic work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A £270m investment in disruptive technology also has implications for optics, with the funding bolstering the development of driverless cars and medicine manufacturing technologies.