Special Schools Eye Care Service extended to August 2023

Contractors have been told by NHS England that they will no longer be put on notice this December, as previously communicated

LM SSECS update

The Special Schools Eye Care Service (SSECS) ‘proof of concept’ phase has been extended to 1 August 2023, contractors have been told.

Previous communication from NHS England, sent out this summer, said that those contracted to provide the service would be served their three months’ notice in December, and that the service would cease to exist in its current form in March 2023.

A review into the SSECS model and the future of the service was expected to be completed towards the end of 2022.

Contractors spoke of their concerns in November, with optometrist Angela Henderson telling that it would not be appropriate for children attending special schools to be seen in the practice setting.

“We’ve invested quite a lot of time and money in getting the contract up and running and building relationships in the school. To think that that’s going to stop doesn’t feel right. We’ve started seeing children, and clinically where do they go if we drop out? It doesn’t look good for us professionally, and it doesn’t look very good for the NHS either,” Henderson said.

Learning disability charity SeeAbility, which holds a contract to provide services for 3000 children across 25 schools, also expressed concern, releasing a series of blog posts from parents, headteachers and patients that highlighted the benefits of the service.

The letter from NHS England, received by contractors on 22 December, confirmed that the service would now be extended for a further four months, in order to “further assist with the engagement and design of any future model” and “provide certainty for schools participating in the programme for the remainder of the current academic year.”

Existing terms, including payments and other operational and clinical service requirements, will continue to apply, the letter said.

However, it noted that, because existing contracts with laboratories will end on 31 March 2023, the General Ophthalmic Services voucher scheme will need to be used for the payment of frames from 1 April.

Guidance for current contractors on how to use the voucher scheme and secure payments after 1 April 2023 will be provided separately, the letter said.