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Optical bodies urge Government to prioritise IT connectivity in open letter

“Many optical practices still rely on faxes to hospitals, or letters to overstretched GPs, to refer patients into secondary care”

Letter and printer

An open letter from optical bodies to NHS leaders has called for the Government to prioritise IT connectivity between community optometry and the wider NHS.

The letter to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens and operations and information national director Matthew Swindells was signed by sector leaders from the AOP, Local Optical Committee Support Unit, Association of British Dispensing Opticians and Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians. 

It urges the Government to implement IT connectivity from current budgets in 2019–2020, rather than relying on finding an end-of-year underspend which may not allow enough time for implementation.

“This long-awaited project will offer benefits many times its cost – both in terms of immediate patient care, and the longer-term scope to deliver key elements of the Long Term Plan,” the letter emphasised.

It highlighted that the “relatively simple” change is long overdue.

“Many optical practices still rely on faxes to hospitals, or letters to overstretched GPs, to refer patients into secondary care – in stark contrast to the vision of a high-tech NHS set out by the Secretary of State,” the letter reads.

Commenting on the open letter, AOP chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, emphasised: “Optometrists already play a key role in reducing pressure on hospital eye services, but are being prevented from reaching their full potential by NHS England’s apparent lack of commitment and investment in IT connectivity. This long-awaited project, which has benefits that far outweigh its costs, is at risk of never being realised if NHS England continue to rely on an underspend to fund it.”

The letter has been copied to the health secretary, Matt Hancock.

Image credit: Pixabay