New Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, David Mowat, expressed surprise that eye health services are not high on the NHS priority list, as he met with the Optical Confederation (OC).
OC chair, Chris Hunt, and OC chief executive representative and AOP chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, emphasised that community optometry is ideally placed to offer local, effective and cost-efficient services to support hospital systems, at the meeting last week (19 September).
Mr Hunt said that he was “heartened” by the meeting, adding: “The minister was genuinely interested in how the optical sector can offer real value within a primary care setting and deliver the Five Year Forward View. He was surprised that eye health services were not higher up the NHS agenda, a concern that we fully share. Indeed, it was not clear that officials had convincing answers for this.”
During their time with Minister Mowat, Mr Hunt and Ms Alderman also called for the rollout of minor eye conditions service (MECS) across England.
Ms Alderman highlighted that community optometrists offering MECS across England have provided the primary care minister with plenty of evidence to support such a move.
“The OC is keen to champion community eye health services and we were pleased that the new minister shared our desire to integrate optics into the wider NHS system and primary care planning,” she emphasised.
The OC is also scheduled to meet the minister – who is set to appear at the National Optical Conference (10–11 November, Birmingham) – next year.