Primary care optometry poised to help demand on GPs

The 2023 GP Patient Survey (GPPS) published last week shows a decline in the number of patients reporting a good overall experience with their GP practice

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has responded to the latest official statistics from the GPPS published by NHS England by calling for a national approach to extended services in optometry to relieve pressure on GPs.   

The report highlights patients’ concerns relating to their experience of accessing GP services, revealing that 1 in 4 patients (24.1%) tried to access an NHS service in the past 12 months when they wanted to see a GP, but their GP practice was closed. Over half (51.4%) said they had avoided making an appointment with their GP even though they needed one, and 27.9% reported avoiding making an appointment because of how difficult they found the process.

Responding to the GPPS survey results, Chief Executive of the AOP, Adam Sampson said: “There is no doubt that GP practices are under greater pressure than ever before. The latest GPPS figures paint a stark picture: patients say they are having to compromise on their care as a result of long wait times and are struggling to cope with the rush for appointments when booking to see a GP.

“These pressures are not limited to GPs, as shown by the damning report from the Commons' Health and Social Care Committee, which says more needs to be done, and quickly to tackle the genuine crisis of access in NHS dentistry.”

The results are in contrast to findings of the General Optical Council (GOC) 2023 public perceptions survey, which reported the public’s positive views and experiences of eye care services. The GOC found that 92% of respondents who had a sight test were confident in the high standard of care. Pilot schemes of extended eye care services in Bassetlaw show that 84% of patients were successfully treated for minor eye conditions in community opticians as opposed to being referred on.   

Mr Sampson added: “Against this backdrop, we are proud of the role optometry plays, providing excellent and easy-to-access care to patients in their communities. We know that GP appointments are taken up by minor ailments and eye conditions that optometrists are well-equipped to manage. We also know that patients who are seen in an opticians rate the service and the care they receive highly. Optometry is already doing so much, but it is also why we continue to call for a nation-wide approach to the commissioning of extended services in primary eye care. Patients only stand to benefit from this commitment.”     


For more information, please contact Anjola Sulaiman, PR and Media Executive, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2062.

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