OC in primary care call at party conferences

The Optical Confederation will join audiologists and pharmacists in lobbying for the NHS to make better use of community practitioners

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A coalition of primary care providers is heading to the political party conferences this autumn to call for the NHS to make better use of community primary care practitioners, including optometrists, audiologists and pharmacists.

The Optical Confederation (OC), of which the AOP is a founding member, will join with the National Community Hearing Association and Pharmacy Voice, as the associations lobby at the Labour and Conservatives party conferences.

The three organisations will be promoting the message that primary care is more than just general practice, and that community practitioners in optometry, audiology and pharmacy can offer more

“The nation’s optometrists and opticians carry out over 20 million sight tests a year at convenient locations in the community. But they can do far more as part of the primary care service to meet growing demand and help close the NHS funding gap,” said Chris Hunt, chairman of the OC.

During the conferences, the OC will be looking to draw attention to the expanding role of optometry in the UK, with services increasingly going beyond sight tests to include the monitoring of serious conditions such as glaucoma and treating minor eye conditions which, Mr Hunt highlighted, reduces pressure on hospitals and GPs.

He added: “Opportunity now exists to roll out these services nationwide to common standards, saving transaction costs, but NHS commissioning remains patchy and inconsistent. This must change. People deserve better and can have better now. We will be calling on politicians of all parties and in all roles to help bring this about.”

Adding support, chair of the National Community Hearing Association, Mark Georgevic, said: “This is a landmark year for hearing care...the tools are now in place to help the NHS meet growing demand within available resources.” 

Mr Georgevic added: “Community audiologists are key to tackling the hearing challenges of our ageing population by helping people maintain their independence and reduce their risk of social isolation, depression and cognitive decline. It is time to realise these gains across the whole UK.”

Claire Ward, chair of Pharmacy Voice, added that pharmacists will be joining the call for politicians “to enable community pharmacy to do more to help tackle major public health issues such as obesity, smoking and alcohol, and reduce the burden on GPs and A&E.”

The Conservative party conference will be held in Manchester from 4–7 October, while Labour’s 2015 conference will take place in Brighton from 27–30 September.