Optometry First - call to action

AOP works with others in optics to ensure Optometry First model, supporting sustainable patient care

Association of Optometrists logoAssociation of British Dispensing Opticians logo

The College of Optometrists logoFODO logoLOCSU logo

Primary eye care has long been able to deliver a wide range of NHS care outside hospitals, including diagnosis, treatment, follow-up to surgery, and the co-management of long-term conditions. 

Through NHS England’s National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme, commissioners are being encouraged to take advantage of the full range of clinical expertise and infrastructure primary eye care has to offer, recognising it as the equivalent of general practice.

This is driven by the need to tackle outpatient waits, eliminate the risks of avoidable sight loss and address hospital capacity pressures which existed prior to Covid, and have increased significantly during the pandemic. The expansion of care outside hospital is also key to outpatient transformation and bringing the benefits of integrated care closer to home for an ageing population. 

To help the NHS achieve this vital service transformation, the national optical bodies have worked with NHS England to develop an Optometry First model to be commissioned at scale utilising a consistent service specification.

Optometry First describes a comprehensive primary eye care service. It builds on the principles of CUES and reflects the vision of The College of Optometrists, Royal College of Ophthalmologists, and wider optical representative bodies for a joint vision for safe and sustainable patient eye care services.

It will improve efficiency and accuracy of case-finding, extend the scope of care available within primary eye care and improve patient experience and opportunities for self-care. The model employs the core competencies of optometrists, dispensing opticians and their practice team, supported by higher qualified primary care practitioners and the multidisciplinary hospital ophthalmology team, where necessary, across a network of local optometric practices and the hospital eye service.

The service will ensure that primary care practitioners can offer first contact care through to resolution whilst also providing continuity of care for people with a long-term condition closer to home.

NHS England now wish to test this model by working intensively with a small number of systems, as well as continuing to work more widely, with a view to strengthening the evidence base and demonstrating a route to scaling up across England. This is an approach supported by all optical bodies.

The willingness of primary eyecare to participate is a key criteria for ICS selection. Therefore, we are urging practices and their whole practice teams to demonstrate their willingness by getting involved if their area is selected to test this new model of care. In the first instance please contact your LOC for further information who will link directly with the ICS, LOCSU and other representative organisations. 

If you would like to learn more about Optometry First, please contact your LOC, LOCSU or your representative body. You can also apply for an account on the Future NHS Collaboration Platform and view the Optometry First Toolkit online. 

Notes to editors

The national optical representative bodies:

ABDO - The Association of British Dispensing Opticians is the professional body for dispensing opticians. Its purpose is to support and represent its members, promote awareness of their roles, enable their professional development and to advance the profession as a whole.

Contact: [email protected]

AOP – The Association of Optometrists is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. It supports over 82% of practising optometrists to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. It protects, supports and represents its members throughout their careers.

Contact: [email protected]

College of Optometrists – The College of Optometrists is the professional body for optometry and supports its members in achieving excellence throughout their careers. It champions the profession, defines best clinical practice, and enables optometrists to develop through high-quality training and qualifications. The College ensures that optometry continues to progress through research, and actively educates and advises the public.

Contact: [email protected]

FODO – The Association for Eye Care Providers – is the leading national association for eye care providers working in primary and community care settings. Each year its members provide over 18 million eye examinations and offer a wide range of other eye care services across the UK.

Contact: [email protected]

LOCSU - LOCSU is the Local Optical Committee Support Unit, supporting Local Optical Committees (LOCs) in England across a range of activities relating to primary eye care. Our work includes policy work, pathway development, commissioning support, governance and compliance support, communication, and training.

Contact: [email protected]