AOP welcomes report calling for redirection of future funding from secondary to primary and community services

The King’s Fund says a shift in focus away from hospital care in England’s ‘failing health and care system’ is essential

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) welcomes the latest report by The King’s Fund – an independent charity working to improve health and care – on the need for a ‘radical’ funding shift towards primary and community health care to bolster the effectiveness of services for patients in England.

Highlighting ‘30 years of failures of successive governments’ in growing and investing in primary and community care, the report found that acute hospitals had the largest proportion of Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spending, £83.1 billion, in comparison with the £14.9 billion spent on primary care, despite the majority of interactions within the NHS being through primary and community services.

The impact of these failures is felt by patients who face deteriorating conditions and have no recourse but to seek help from overburdened acute hospitals, the report states.

Funding decisions that prioritise hospitals, quick fixes to curb planned care backlogs and a ‘cycle of invisibility’ as a result of insufficient data about primary and community services are cited in the report as reasons for the ‘grave policy failures’.

The report stresses that greater investment should not lead to a closure of hospitals but a redirection of future funding into an extensive plan to refocus the health and care system towards primary and community care.

Adam Sampson, AOP Chief Executive said: “The King’s Fund Report is another desperate reminder that the current health and care system in England is failing. The answer to the waiting list crisis in the NHS is not to ask for more from hospitals; it is time for a long-term funding commitment that puts primary and community services at the core of patient care.

“Investment is essential, and the report is right to reveal imbalances that need to be addressed. The current direction of travel – where the proportion of DHSC spending on primary care has actually fallen from 8.9% in 2015/16 to 8.1% in 2021/22 – must be reversed.

“As we set out in our successful Sight won’t wait campaign, primary care optometry must not be part of the ‘cycle of invisibility.’ Optometrists needs to be recognised for the established prevention role they play, detecting diseases early, as well as delivering extended eye care services. Optometrists are qualified healthcare professionals who, if commissioned to do more, can work alongside primary care peers in moving patient care closer to home.”

Proposals set out in The King’s Fund report to implement the shift, include:

  • Vision: Advocating for a clear vision for bolstering primary and community services which aligns all policies with a political will to ensure long term execution
  • Funding: Calling for a future growth in health and care funding which is targeted at primary and community services
  • Flexibility and Accountability: Giving local leaders flexibility to meet local needs and holding them accountable for improving overall patient care

The AOP’s Sight won’t wait campaign has been calling for a national plan for eye care services to utilise the existing optometry workforce to cut hospital waiting lists, reduce sight loss and improve patient outcomes. For more information, visit:


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 voice of the optical profession, representing 80% of practising optometrists. The AOP elevates the work of its members, safeguards their interests, and champions eye health across the UK. For more information, visit