Optometrists warn Government they are playing “fast and loose” with NHS patients’ eyecare in England

Last-minute cut in Government funding means opticians in England will have no choice but to prioritise private patients in order to survive

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has raised concerns that the Government is playing “fast and loose” with NHS patients’ eyecare, as a last-minute cut in Government funding means opticians in England will have no choice but to prioritise private patients in order to survive.

The AOP and the other members of the Government negotiating body for optics, the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) have today, 12 June, written an open letter to the Secretary of State and the Minister for primary care highlighting the damaging impact this will have on patient care. The letter demands that NHS England works with the sector to support optical practices through the next phase.

The OFNC statement also highlights that in the coming week, many optical practices will start to expand the care they offer to private patients, and NHS England has failed to give guidance to the sector on when routine care for NHS patients can resume. 

Commenting, AOP Chief Executive, Henrietta Alderman said: “We have seen messages from NHS England area teams this week indicating that the current support payments will only cover the period up to the end of June, and will then stop with no replacement scheme. This will cause massive financial problems for many optical practices, because when routine work resumes, social distancing and infection control will substantially reduce the number of patients that practices can see.

 “It now seems likely that the next NHS England guidance letter will confirm that practices can restart NHS sight tests, but we do not yet know when. This lack of notice creates further problems for optical practices, at what is already a very difficult time. 

“It appears that the Government is playing "fast and loose" with NHS patients’ eyecare which will have biggest impact in the most deprived areas of the country. 

“We urge the Government and NHS England to take on board the concerns raised in today’s OFNC letter, and to work with us to take decisive action to solve these problems.”


For media enquiries, please contact Mary Jones, Interim PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2040.

Notes to Editors

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 82% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit