“There is a clear appetite for healthcare reform among the major political parties”

Thom Renwick, ophthalmology lead at Roche UK and part of The Eyes Have It partnership, on what he learnt about eye care in 2024 during this autumn’s party conferences

Colourful overlapping silhouettes of people voting

What were the key healthcare insights Roche UK took from the main political party conferences in autumn this year?

There is a clear appetite for healthcare reform among the major political parties. It was particularly interesting to hear more details about how Labour will deliver on their ‘national mission’ of enhancing the NHS to ensure it remains fit for the future. Their focus on shifting to a more preventative approach is particularly relevant for an area such as eye health.

At the same time, the Conservatives remain committed to reducing delays in care – indeed, it is one of the commitments by which Rishi Sunak is asking people to judge his leadership. Given that ophthalmology accounts for a significant percentage of current waiting lists, a focus on eye care will be essential.

Importantly, neither Labour nor the Conservatives appear able to offer significant short-term increases to reduce financial and human resources constraints. This means continued innovation in service design and delivery will be paramount to address the growing demand for healthcare services. National coordination will be essential to avoid a potential postcode lottery, ensuring that everyone can access the right care, at the right time and place.

Continued innovation in service design and delivery will be paramount to address the growing demand for healthcare services


Thom Renwick and Ben Burton are laughing in a room in parliament in front of a yellow sign for Westminster Eye Health Day 2022
Thom Renwick with now President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Ben Burton, during Westminster Eye Health Day 2022

What does Roche UK believe are the key developments that the eye care sector should expect in 2024?

We are excited by the potential innovations that 2024 will bring, right across the eye care sector, which we hope will bring real benefits to patients.

More broadly, through Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), we are anticipating an increased focus on collaboration between primary and secondary eye care providers, enabling better and more joined up care for patients. It will be vital that the best performing ICSs are enabled to share their best practices, while those ICSs working in more challenging contexts are supported to deliver system transformation. 

What changes does Roche UK foresee with a potential new government?

Any change of government brings with it a certain degree of disruption, as both people and systems adjust to new priorities. However, reassuringly, there doesn’t seem to be appetite for another comprehensive top-down reform of the NHS. For example, from those we heard from during their conference speeches, neither [then health secretary] Steve Barclay nor Wes Streeting mentioned NHS structures such as ICSs, suggesting that focus is instead on making the system work within existing structures. If so, this will mean that ICSs remain the key vehicles for ensuring patients get the best care possible.

Of course, there’s also a clear need for ongoing transformation, from making better use of the primary care workforce, to delivering reliable and user-friendly digital systems which are essential for the efficient running of a 21st century health service. Such changes will require national coordination and oversight, highlighting why a clear national plan is needed to ensure consistent and sustained improvements in healthcare delivery.