MP Marsha de Cordova urges Chancellor to increase investment in eye care

Ahead of the Spring Budget, de Cordova highlighted the pressure on ophthalmology waiting lists, and the opportunities that increased investment could provide

A laptop is open next to a notepad and coffee cup
Pexels/Andrew Neel

Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, ahead of the Spring Budget, calling for an increased investment in eye health care.

The Spring Budget is set to be announced on 6 March.

In a letter addressed to the Chancellor, and shared online, De Cordova, who is chair of the Eye Health and Visual Impairment All Party Parliamentary Group, wrote: “I believe that there is an eye health care emergency, and the government must take urgent action to tackle it by providing more investment in the NHS for eye health care.”

The MP highlighted that 2 million people are living in the UK with sight loss, with numbers set to rise to 4 million by 2050.

“The NHS is under severe pressure for all conditions but in eye health it is particularly concerning,” de Cordova shared, pointing out that ophthalmology is currently the busiest outpatient speciality in secondary care, with more than 600,000 people waiting, making up almost 10% of the NHS waiting list.

“Yet, despite the worrying statistics, the crisis in eye health care continues to be ignored which is especially concerning given that 50% of all sight loss is avoidable,” she added.

Sight loss currently costs the UK economy more than £36 billion a year, de Cordova highlighted.

Greater investment in eye care, de Cordova suggested, could fund more clinical placements to enable optometrists to complete independent prescribing and higher qualifications, “in order to increase capacity in primary care.”

An increase in investment would improve digital connectivity between primary, community, and secondary eye care, by upgrading IT infrastructure, de Cordova said, and ensure consistent commissioning of eye health services by integrated care boards in primary care to reduce pressure on secondary care.

Additional investment would also aid in the recruitment and retention of ophthalmologists and clinical staff.

De Cordova highlighted that funding would enable the collection of national population data on blindness and visual impairment, “to better understand why people in the UK are losing their sight due to preventable causes, and why people continue to live with correctable visual impairments.”

Concluding the letter, the MP stated: “I believe investment in these areas will reduce the NHS backlog, prevent avoidable sight loss and ensure the delivery of good quality eye health care that everyone can access, when and where they need it.”

The AOP facilitated a roundtable discussion with MP Marsha de Cordova and optometrists in her Battersea constituency in January. Find out more about the discussion on OT.