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The reform agenda

Long term goals to improve the patient eye care pathway

Optometrist at practice

Reducing the prevalence of eye conditions by just 1% through the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of eye disease could save £9.5 billion by 2050.22 This is why optometry is a key component in primary care and must be utilised as the first port of call for many eye health conditions, playing a central role in the prevention of eye disease.

This can only be achieved through wider reforms including:

Establishing a national eye care plan for prevention and equal access

England is the only UK country that does not have a national plan for eye care, falling behind other nations such as Scotland and Wales, which have delivered on far-reaching reforms to improve equality of access to eye care services.

As part of The Eyes Have It, a partnership of eye care research, professional and charity bodies, supported by Marsha De Cordova MP, we published the laying the foundations for the future of eye care report.

This report sets out the groundwork for a national plan for eye care including key recommendations and associated issues that need to be addressed by policy makers to improve eye care services in England. This plan puts prevention of eye disease and equality of access to eye care at its core.

Joining up all of primary care, without the need for bloated capital investment

The UK health and care system consistently operates with a ‘GP first’ mindset. However, the result is that GPs – an expensive and increasingly scarce resource – are overloaded and patient waiting times are increasing.

The King’s Fund report that on average there are more than 876,164 GP appointments in the NHS every day, an increase of 34,219 appointments a day since 2018/19.23 Just as greater use is being made of pharmacists, where eye health is concerned, optometry should be the first port of call for care as part of an approach that places primary and community services at the centre of the health and care system.

Optometrists represent a highly trained clinical workforce, and the practices in which they work can provide the community diagnostics that are required to support ophthalmology, avoiding the need for significant capital investment on buildings and equipment.

References

22. Fight for Sight, Time to Focus report
23. Making care closer to home a reality