Three steps towards visionary change in eye health for an incoming Government

The AOP is outlining three core priorities that are needed to fast-track the transformation of eye care for patients, as part of a renewed focus on primary care delivery

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has published Visionary change in eye health, setting out three policy recommendations for the next Government to ensure everyone is able to access specialist eye care when they need it and wherever they live, and to tackle the ophthalmology waiting list which is currently leading to avoidable irreversible sight loss.

With polling day for the General Election one week away, the AOP will be urging the next Government to use capacity within the highly skilled, community-based clinical optometry workforce to provide additional eye care services to cut the waiting list backlog and reduce pressure on GPs and A&E services.

Adam Sampson, Chief Executive of the AOP said: “This election comes at a critical moment for the NHS and the people it cares for every day. It is essential that everyone has access to high-quality, specialist eye care when they need it, close to home. With an ophthalmology waiting list of over 600,000, and mounting pressure on GPs services, the next government will inherit a healthcare system under great strain – but the opportunities to address the problems do exist. Investment in primary care will be a critical component of the solution, and we argue that the untapped resource within optometry, with the right level of support, has a vital role to play.

“Our three policy recommendations underpin what we have called for as part of our high-profile public campaigns, including Sight Won’t Wait, which set out the steps to fast-track the transformation of eye care for patients, immediately cutting patient waiting lists and reducing pressure on overstretched NHS services.

“Our practical recommendations propose a smarter commissioning approach to eye care – specifically in England which does not have a national plan for eye care. We need to stop the wasteful use of scarce NHS resources by joining up the infrastructure behind primary and secondary care, leading to more timely diagnosis and treatment, and critically better health outcomes for patients.”

The three policy recommendations are:

  • Extending the scope of community eye care services such as glaucoma monitoring schemes, Minor Eye Care Services (MECS) and Community Urgent Eye Services (CUES) which treat patients and reduce the need for a referral into secondary care – ending the postcode lottery in England
  • Widening the prescribing powers of all optometrists to allow optometrists to provide medications for eye conditions they are already qualified to treat. Updating the ‘entry level exemptions’ list of medications, which has not been revised since 2005, will enable optometry to reduce the need for millions of GP appointments
  • Investing in IT infrastructure for the NHS to allow large file image sharing and real-time communication between clinicians to stop delays to care, speed up diagnosis and support access to treatment across primary and secondary care at the earliest opportunity.

In June, the AOP launched its One million appointments campaign, which highlighted the millions of GP appointments that could be saved by redirecting patients into the appropriate, specialist services within optometry. The campaign called for vital investment in the NHS IT infrastructure alongside the universal commissioning of extended eye care services.

To read the priorities in full, 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