Optical practices have the power to force NHS reform, health minister Alistair Burt stated following a meeting with optical sector leaders last month.
The Minister of State for Community and Social Care, Mr Burt said that High Street practices could help the NHS reforms that are documented in the Five Year Forward View. He added that both optometrists and dispensing opticians are well positioned to play a wider role in transforming health delivery with other primary care professionals and could help reduce the pressure on GPs and hospital care.
Mr Burt said: “There is no doubt that some of the best examples I have seen so far from the ‘vanguard’ sites are where they are getting other professions involved in delivering care in the community to support general practice. I sincerely hope that eye care and ophthalmology will feature in the new model of care within some of the ‘vanguard’ sites.”
He added: “I recognise that optical practices could play a wider role in delivering care closer to patients and that they can take some of the pressure away from GPs.”
The minister informed optical leaders present, including the AOP’s chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, and LOC Support Unit (LOCSU) managing director, Katrina Venerus, that he understood the importance of optical practices being connected with the rest of the NHS. While leaders explained that they felt that the IT bid submitted by the sector to NHS England was critical to secure sharing of patient records.
Speaking on behalf of the LOCSU and the Optical Confederation, of which the AOP is a founding member, chief executive of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, Tony Garrett, said: “This was a very positive meeting. We were pleased to have had such a productive and encouraging meeting with the minister. We welcome his interest in the sector and look forward to working with him."