GOS to remain a national contract under Health and Care Bill reforms

NHS England and DHSC have confirmed that the GOS contract, fees and grants, will continue to be negotiated nationally when Integrated Care Boards take on primary care contract management

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Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

The NHS has confirmed that General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) in England will remain a nationally agreed contract under the new Health and Care Bill.

Currently before Parliament, the Health and Care Bill is set to see Clinical Commissioning Groups replaced by Integrated Care Boards (ICBs).

The Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and NHS Improvement confirmed in a 10 December meeting with optical bodies, including the AOP, that GOS will continue to be a national demand-led service under a nationally agreed GOS contract.

Fees and grants will continue to be negotiated nationally, with no local variation, it was confirmed.

NHS England announced earlier this year that all primary care contract management functions, including GOS, would move to ICBs under the new Bill. However, the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) confirmed that GOS terms, fees and grants would continue to be negotiated nationally.

In the 10 December meeting with optical bodies, NHS England confirmed that devolving the management of GOS to ICBs will “simply be about contract management.”

The Bill will also introduce a new commissioning framework for local services – the Provider Selection Regime (PSR). Optical bodies have agreed to work collaboratively with NHS England to help ensure the PSR can help ICBs understand the Primary Ophthalmic Services (POS) framework.

This support will enable the commissioning bodies to make the best use of extended primary eye care services “for the benefit of patients and the wider NHS.”

The meeting was attended by optical bodies including OFNC members, such as the AOP, as well as organisations such as the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU).

As the Bill has progressed through Parliament, the AOP has “pressed for reassurance” that GOS would remain nationally negotiated, flagging potential risks around the reforms relating to commissioning back in February.

The AOP’s clinical director, Dr Peter Hampson, has also illustrated the potential benefits of the reforms in past updates, sharing that moving commissioning of services to ICBs “should pave the way for more consistent commissioning of extended eye care services delivered in High Street optometric practices,” the benefits of which have been seen in the form of the COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service.