Association of Optometrists responds to landslide General Election result

Primary care investment, with the optometry workforce at its core, must be at the forefront of the new government’s plans

As a Labour majority Government takes office, the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is calling on the new administration to put primary care investment at the forefront of its plans, and deliver on its commitments to optometry.

Waiting times, whether as an secondary care outpatient or accessing a GP, continue to pose an unprecedented challenge to the NHS and patients. The growing needs of patients, an aging population, workforce shortages and ongoing industrial action all leave a healthcare service under great strain, a situation made worse by the long lasting impact of the pandemic.

The AOP, representing 80% of UK Optometrists, is urging the new Government to use capacity within the specialist, clinical optometry workforce, on every High Street, to provide additional eye care services that cut waiting lists and reduce pressure on GPs and A&E services.

Adam Sampson, Chief Executive of the AOP said: “The chronic underinvestment in primary care services over the last three decades is one of the fundamental blockers to better care for patients, and improving health outcomes. But we are at a critical point, with Labour’s supermajority they have every opportunity to implement radical positive change.

“We are urging the new Government to seize the moment, to put a refocus on primary care at the heart of the health agenda. Better use of all our community-based colleagues will be vital in fixing the seismic challenges we face in the NHS, and optometry has a crucial role to play.

“Time and again, Labour has pointed to the important role of optometry in reducing the backlog and designing services that meet demand and the needs of patients, making it a manifesto promise. And evidence, from pilot schemes up and down the country, shows that community minor and urgent eye care services work, reducing referrals into hospital by as much as 90%i. Incoming ministers should use the capacity within the highly skilled optometry workforce to save the NHS millions of GP consultations, routine hospital appointments and trips to A&E.

“Enhanced optometry services also support the economy, achieving significant savings to the NHS and the taxpayer. Services that detect, manage, and monitor glaucoma in the community have the potential to save the NHS 90m a year by 2030ii.

“There is a ready workforce, poised to help, but we need the political will, and the new Government to deliver on its commitments.”

The Labour Government comes into power as:

  • An independent Kings Fund report calls for a ‘radical’ funding shift towards primary and community health care to bolster the effectiveness of services for patients in England, citing ‘30 years of failures of successive governments’
  • Polling shows worries about the NHS are the most mentioned issue by voters in Britian
  • Over 600,000 people languish on waiting lists for a hospital eye appointment, and the total care waiting list in England stands at more than 7m 
  • Around 5m GP appointments every year are taken up by eye ailments that could be managed by optometrists, over 1m are for hay fever medications alone, medications that optometrists are trained to provide.

Last week, the AOP set out it’s Visionary change in eye health: priorities for a new government which outlines the three actions that are needed to fast-track the transformation of eye care for patients, as part of a renewed focus on primary care delivery.

These are:

  • Extending the scope of community eye care services such as glaucoma monitoringschemes, 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.

Read Visionary change in eye health in full:


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

Notes to Editors

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the voice of the optical profession, representing over 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


MacIsaac, J. C., Naroo, S. A., & Rumney, N. J. (2022). Analysis of UK eye casualty presentations. Clinical and Experimental Optometry, 105(4), 428–434. 

ii Association of Optometrists: The role of optometry in revolutionising glaucoma care, 2024