General election 2024

AOP: upcoming election a “critical point” to address healthcare challenges

The AOP has responded to news that the general election will be held on 4 July

A close up of a hand completing an election ballot paper
Getty/Laurence Dutton
The AOP has urged the next government to address lengthy ophthalmology waiting times by drawing on the optometry workforce following confirmation that a general election will be held on 4 July.

AOP chief executive, Adam Sampson, described the upcoming election as a “critical point.”

“The next government will need to take swift, but crucially efficient, action to address the cracks in our healthcare system. With the growing strain on secondary care, our Sight won’t wait campaign has been clear: cutting waiting times should be at the forefront of any new government’s plans – and this has to include the ophthalmology backlog. We need to optimise optometry to reduce the growing pressure on secondary care and GPs,” he emphasised.

Sampson highlighted that optometry is ready to reduce the pressure on services that are buckling under demand by prioritising a patient-first response.

“That means the consistent commissioning of clinical care in the community that is convenient, quicker, and closer to home. We need to end the postcode lottery of eye care in England,” he said.

Sampson observed that the King’s Fund has recently highlighted a lack of investment in primary care as one of the biggest failings in healthcare policy, while labelling the most recent uplift in the General Ophthalmic Services fee as “derisory” at 1.68%.

“The next government must shift the focus from secondary to primary care if we are to meet the ambition to transform the patient experience, tackle disease prevention, and achieve better health outcomes. This investment needs to include getting the basics right, such as improving IT connectivity between optometry and ophthalmology,” Sampson said.

NHS Confederation chief executive, Matthew Taylor, highlighted that every £1 invested in the NHS returns £4 to the economy in gross value added.

“Since the last election, the NHS has gone through its most difficult years with it responding to a global pandemic, growing waiting lists, staffing pressures and strikes, and rising ill health. In the face of these challenges, its 1.4 million staff continue to deliver their very best for their patients but the road to recovery is long,” he said.

He emphasised that the next government’s commitment to the NHS will shape the population’s health and wellbeing as well as that of “generations to come.”

“We are at a turning point for the NHS and political parties have a choice to make on what they want their legacy to be if they are granted the keys to Downing Street,” Taylor shared.

The confederation is calling for the next government to address priority areas. These include a ban on unnecessary and distracting structural reforms to the NHS for the duration of the next parliament and a 12-month stabilisation plan to get NHS performance back on track.

The confederation has also requested a doubling of NHS capital expenditure for vital building updates and new equipment, a promise to fund the existing NHS workforce plan and a new cross-government health improvement strategy.

Specsavers clinical services director, Giles Edmonds, described the election being called as “an important moment for the country.”

“The health service will be a key battleground, which means that community optometry and audiology have an opportunity to showcase how we can do even more to support patients and the NHS,” he emphasised.

“This is not about being party political, but it is about doing the right thing by our patients and communities. Together, we can change lives by ensuring eye and ear health is on the agenda,” Edmonds concluded.