Funding discussions continue with NHS England

No agreement has been reached around further financial support for practices after temporary funding measures ceased at the end of June

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Pixabay/Alexander Stein
Discussions are continuing between the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) and NHS England on the continuation of financial support for optical practices.

Temporary funding arrangements for practices ceased at the end of June, but NHS England is yet to announce whether further support will be made available.

Although many practices in England have been able to extend the range of eye care on offer, social distancing has significantly limited their capacity.

Practices also face extra costs associated with purchasing personal protective equipment and implementing infection control measures.

In Leicester, where a local lockdown is in force, practices are unsure whether Government funding will be made available while they can only offer emergency, urgent and essential care.

The OFNC has confirmed that NHS England put a “very limited” proposal for further temporary funding to the committee on Thursday (2 July).

This offer was rejected by the OFNC as “inadequate and unworkable.”

“We know the continued uncertainty over future funding arrangements is causing immense difficulty and concern for eye care providers across England,” the OFNC highlighted.

“We are continuing to press NHS England to work constructively with us to address our proposals and develop a solution which is fit for purpose and meets the needs of patients, NHS England and NHS primary eye care providers,” the committee added.

On Friday (3 July), the OFNC wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Minister for Primary Care to call for NHS England to work with the committee on funding arrangements that will enable practices to maintain the delivery of NHS services.

The key support that the OFNC is calling for is financial support to cover the cost of infection control and the provision of remote care. It is also urging NHS England to ensure that domiciliary providers and practices in relatively deprived areas that provide largely NHS care remain financially viable.