LOCSU asked to create standard service specification for minor and urgent eye care

The Government has asked LOCSU to develop a standard service specification for minor and urgent eye care within ICBs, but the AOP has emphasised that national ambition should not be sidelined 

Zoe Richmond is stood on stage behind a podium, to the left of the image

The Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) has been asked to create a standard service specification for minor and urgent eye care, the organisation’s clinical director, Zoe Richmond, confirmed today (13 November).

Richmond shared the news on the first morning of LOCSU’s National Optical Conference, which is being held in Wyboston, Bedfordshire.

The objective of a standard specification for minor and urgent eye care would “improve consistency and reduce the unwarranted variation that we currently have across England,” Richmond said.

LOCSU has been asked to create the specification alongside the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC).

The request came from then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Primary Care and Public Health, Neil O’Brien.

O’Brien stepped down from his role during Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle.

The reshuffle also saw Health Secretary Steve Barclay replaced with Victoria Atkins.

AOP response: “Bold thinking is needed”

The AOP has emphasised that, while a standard specification for within Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) is welcome, ambition for a national plan should remain key.

The association has called for ‘bold thinking’ in response to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC’s) request.

Ambition for a national approach ‘should not be sacrificed,’ the AOP said.

Adam Sampson, AOP chief executive, said: “This request is strongly welcomed by the AOP. Our policy and influencing work – including the successful Sight Won’t Wait campaign – has consistently called on the Government to recognise that extended eye care services delivered by primary care optometry, including minor and urgent eye care, relieves pressure on hospital eye services, A&E, and GP appointments. The approach to the profession for the development of this pathway is a response to that pressure.”

Sampson added: “We have reached a significant moment for optometry. The DHSC is right to acknowledge the role the profession plays, providing valued eye care across the country. And the intention to make more effective use of our highly trained clinical workforce, coupled with a commitment to the delivery of eye care services that are fit for the future and able to reach more patients earlier, is overdue.

“LOCSU and CCHEC have the important task of designing the standard service specification for minor and urgent eye care, on behalf of the whole sector, and the AOP is committed to assist wherever we can.”

The development of the specification must be done “at pace and with pragmatism,” Sampson said, “but this should not mean that ambition should be sacrificed. Bold thinking is needed to ensure that the scope of the services offered, and the associated pricing structure, are sustainable for optometry, while also meeting the needs of an ageing population.”

He added: “Crucially, the standard service specification for minor and urgent eye care should be available everywhere and accessible to all. While some ICB areas have commissioned existing Minor Eye Conditions Services and CUES, it is evident that commissioning is highly variable across the country.

“That is why we continue to advocate for a national approach that brings the postcode lottery of eye care to an end. A locally commissioned model that lacks additional funding and has no guidance from DHSC to prioritise the new service is going to fall short for patients and limit the impact optometry can make. It would also fail to live up to the ministerial expectations that this new initiative will have a significant impact on the nation’s eye care.”