NHS Digital optical data publication

Our response to proposals to stop collecting workforce and activity data, November 2019

Sight test

The Consultation

NHS Digital consulted on proposals to stop collecting and publishing data on ophthalmic practitioners authorised to carry out sight tests in England and Wales (the performers lists) and data on NHS sight test activity in England.

The AOP's response

1. Do you currently use the GOS Workforce Statistics for England and Wales publication, or the GOS Activity Statistics publication? Please state which you use and how

The AOP is a membership body for optometrists and other eye health professionals. We represent over 80% of the UK’s 15,000 optometrists. We welcome the opportunity to respond to this consultation.

We use both the General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) workforce statistics and the activity statistics frequently in our policy and communications work, both with our members and external stakeholders including governments, the NHS and regulators. Although the statistics are less detailed and informative than they should be, they are essential measures of the level of GOS activity which is a fundamental component of our members’ work. 

This information is vital when considering issues such as trends in GOS demand and service levels, workforce planning, and optometry education. 

2. Are you supportive of the changes proposed?


As stated in our response to question 1, the statistics involved in these publications are vital to our work. As a measure of GOS activity and the workforce available to deliver GOS, they also have public health implications. 

The statistics should be straightforward for NHS Digital to collect and verify to a reasonable level of confidence via Primary Care Support England (PCSE), which is responsible for updating the performers’ list and processing contractor claims for GOS work. 

Although we recognise that the statistics are currently less detailed and reliable than they should be, that is not a good argument for ceasing their publication. NHS Digital should confer with NHS England and PCSE to identify how the quality of the statistics could be improved.

3. What would the impact of the change be to you/your work?

See our responses to questions 1 and 2.

4. Do you have any other comments on this proposal?

Community optical practices have a vital role in helping the NHS to meet demand for eye healthcare, which is growing as the UK’s population ages. Given the challenges of planning to meet that demand, we think NHS Digital should consider and then consult on how it can improve the range and quality of data on GOS that it collects and publishes.   

The Association of Optometrists
November 2019