Profession reacts to “disappointing” news over National Eye Health Strategy Bill

Specsavers and the AOP have emphasised their commitment to a future eye care strategy after the news that the National Eye Health Strategy Bill will not receive its second reading

Image shows the UK Houses of Parliament from across the river, with a cloudy sky above

Key voices in the optical industry have reemphasised their support for a coordinated national strategy for eye health, after news that MP Marsha de Cordova’s National Eye Health Strategy Bill would not receive its second reading during the current parliamentary session.

In July, it was confirmed that the King would make his speech to Parliament, setting out the Government’s upcoming legislative priorities, on 7 November.

Any bills that were due before the House of Commons after this date were automatically cancelled.

The National Eye Health Strategy Bill was due for its second reading on 24 November.

De Cordova’s office confirmed to OT that the bill cannot automatically be carried over to the next parliamentary session, meaning that if it was to progress it would need to be reintroduced in 2024.

The reintroduction of the bill at a later date has not been confirmed, however de Cordova’s office said that the Battersea MP would continue focusing on eye health.

De Cordova will also continue working with The Eyes Have It (TEHI), a partnership working to raise awareness of sight loss and encourage MPs to reimagine the capacity of NHS eye care services.

The AOP’s policy director, Carolyn Ruston, who is part of TEHI, called the fact that the bill would not receive its second reading “disappointing.”

Ruston confirmed that the AOP will continue to work with de Cordova and the other TEHI partners “to develop a vision and future plan for eye care.”

Westminster Eye Health Day, which is organised by TEHI and will this year be held on 1 November, will “enable us to continue to campaign on the importance of eye care and lobby for change directly with the Government,” Ruston said.

She added: “Through TEHI partnership we have been able to garner support for a national plan for eye care, with eight successful parliamentary questions in May 2023, through regular meetings with the national clinical director for eye care, Louisa Wickham, and a successful panel discussion on the issue at this year’s Royal College of Ophthalmologists 2023 annual congress.”

TEHI is made up of representatives from Roche, the Macular Society, Fight for Sight, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, and the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

Specsavers has also supported the bill since it was introduced in November 2022.

Giles Edmonds, Specsavers’s clinical services director, emphasised that “optometrists are a fundamental part of the eye health network,” with “the clinical skills and diagnostic technology in place not only to detect, but also manage eye disease in the community.”

Edmonds said: “Even though Marsha de Cordova’s bill will not now receive its second reading, we will continue to work with colleagues to present the need for comprehensive service models, particularly in England, based on effective cooperation between community optometrists and the medical profession in general, because this way of working meets local need.

“We will continue to support Marsha in her work campaigning for better services for people with visual impairments and eye health needs. We believe that by the entire sector working together, through co-ordinated action, we can better support our patients and relieve pressure on our NHS.”