OFNC labels GOS fee freeze “a serious injustice”

The fee remains unchanged for a fifth consecutive year

Eye test equipment

There will be no increase to the General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) fees in England for a fifth consecutive year, the Government has announced.

Describing the freeze as “a difficult decision,” the Department of Health and Social Care said that it reflected “the lack of available evidence about any impact on NHS sight test numbers or optical businesses” as a result of fees being frozen since 2016.

The Optical Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) had bid for what it called a “reasonable and affordable” increase of at least 2.5% in GOS fees this year, in line with wider investment in NHS care.

On learning the news, the organisation emphasised to the Government that the freeze is not justified on the evidence and it will therefore have to be imposed without its agreement.

While the OFNC highlights that the profession is focused on protecting patients and supporting the NHS through the coronavirus crisis currently, it confirmed that it had written back to the Department of Health and Social Care about the “offhand treatment of primary eye care services.”

“The OFNC made absolutely clear to NHS England that the ongoing freeze in GOS fees is not in patients’ best long-term interests, with an even greater risk that NHS eye care will be unviable for some communities,” chair of the OFNC, Paul Carroll, emphasised.

He added: “The Government’s fee letter does not bear any relation to discussions the OFNC has had with NHS England and our response sets out to correct the record. In the meantime, a serious injustice has been done to the primary eye care sector and eye care patients. The trust and goodwill of a loyal workforce, who will be key to delivering the Outpatient Transformation Programme and relieving long term pressures on hospitals, has been further eroded.”

It has been confirmed that CET fees and pre-registration grants will rise by 2% in 2020–2021.