NHS England recovery plan must use skills across primary care to fix healthcare access, says AOP

The AOP responds to NHS England’s GP access recovery plan, calling for national support for extended eye care services

NHS England unveiled plans for improving access to primary care this week, to enable patients to receive quicker, more convenient care and stop the current 8am ‘rush’ for appointments.

Under transformative plans more prescribing powers will be delegated to pharmacies along with the plans to expand the Pharmacy First model enabling more services to be delivered in a community pharmacy setting and making them the first port of call for many minor illnesses.

The announcement comes alongside a commitment to investment of £645 million to expand community pharmacy services and a further £240 million given to GP practices across England to upgrade service technology.

Responding to details of the NHS England’s GP access recovery plan, Adam Sampson, Chief Executive of the Association of Optometrists said:

“We’re encouraged to see some pragmatic solutions in the GP access plan including the expansion of pharmacy services for the benefit of patients. However, it is also clear that the plan fails to recognise the value of the whole primary care family which is ultimately the answer to high-quality and specialist care that every patient deserves.

“Our optometrist members for example, already provide vital support to the NHS and where extended eye care services have been commissioned the evidence points to a significant reduction in pressure on other NHS departments in secondary care but this could also apply to GP services.

“Over a quarter of patients (32%)1 turn to their GP for help when they have an eye complaint and our highly skilled workforce are expertly placed to improve the experience for patients. Like pharmacists, the network of community-based optometrists working in high streets up and down the country provides a huge potential resource to help alleviate pressure on GPs. Optometry provides an immediate solution that ensures easy and more convenient access to eye care, quicker.

“We were pleased to see the plan supports the implementation of reforms recommended from the Fuller Stocktake for integrated care, however there needs to be a greater push from ICS’ to deliver a greater parity of esteem across all elements of primary care. Until this happens, alongside greater IT connectivity, patient outcomes will continue to suffer”.

“We hope that the long-awaited NHS workforce plan will do more to recognise the full spectrum of healthcare professionals across primary care, and the vital role they can play to truly address the extremely difficult challenges patients in England are facing.”

Earlier this year, the AOP launched its Sight won’t wait campaign calling for consistent commissioning of extended eye care services to improve patient access to eye care and better utilise the skills of eyecare professionals.


For more information, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2040.

An image of Adam Sampson, AOP Chief Executive is available via this DropBox folder.

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 80% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit


  1. General Optical Council Public perceptions research 2019