Times Health Commission report recognises role of optometrists

“Optometrists can help to spot conditions early,” the report emphasises

A person wearing a grey long-sleeved top reads a newspaper
Pixabay/Niek Verlaan

The Times Health Commission report has acknowledged the role of optometrists in reducing the burden of preventable disease.

The report, which took a year to compile and heard from 600 individuals in a wide range of roles, recognises the role of optometrists in tackling conditions such as glaucoma. 

“There are two million people in the UK who are at risk of sight loss caused by glaucoma, but less than half of them are receiving treatment, because their condition has not been detected,” the report states.

The report emphasised the potential for optometrists to play a role in preventing avoidable sight loss.

“Optometrists can help to spot conditions early. The annual cost to the UK economy of blindness and untreated hearing loss has been put at £63 billion yet often problems are preventable,” the report noted.

The Times Health Commission also calls for a national approach to minor eye care services in England.

“Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have national minor eye care services provided by NHS primary care optometrists but in England services are limited,” the report stated.

The Times Health Commission report showcases a list of 10 recommendations for change within the NHS.

These include creating digital health accounts for patients, tackling waiting lists by introducing a national programme of monthly weekend high intensity theatre lists, reforming the GP contract to focus on broader health outcomes and writing off student debt for doctors, midwives and nurses in line with how long they continue working for the NHS.

The Times Health Commission also calls for sugar and salt taxes, improved youth mental health support and the establishment of a National Care System.

Specsavers clinical services director, Giles Edmonds, welcomed the report’s recognition of primary care optometry.

“Optometrists are GPs of the eyes and have the expertise, care and technology available to do even more to support patients and the NHS. Specsavers is committed to working with colleagues in both primary and secondary care to deliver care and develop care in the community further – from community urgent eye care to glaucoma services,” he said.