LOCSU and Optical Confederation Call to Action response

Commissioners urged to make ‘radical changes’ in sector response to Call to Action.

LOCSU and the Optical Confederation have today published their response to NHS England’s Call to Action Improving eye health and reducing sight loss calling for radical changes in how community eye health services are commissioned and integration of optical practices at the heart of NHS eye care.

Without making better use of community optical practices the NHS will not be able to cope with the welter of eye health needs, which are driven by an ageing population and the arrival of new treatments for conditions which were previously untreatable, and ultimately reduce avoidable sight loss, the organisations argue.

Backed up by evidence gathered from existing community eye health services the response highlights the optical sector’s vision for an increased role for optometrists and opticians in delivering more NHS eye health services in primary care, integrated with the wider NHS and social care. It describes in detail how this vision could be achieved and urges NHS England to work to:

  • Implement national commissioning of pathways that utilise the core skills of community optometrists and opticians to reduce unnecessary referrals to hospital eye services.
  • Integrate community optical practices with NHS IT systems to enable speedy communications across the eye health system, more care in the community, including shared care, whilst maintaining patient safety.
  • Allow flexibility where necessary to ensure universal access to General Ophthalmic Services for people from seldom heard and “at risk” groups, including adults and children with learning disabilities and homeless people .
  • Develop a more efficient and effective approach to the commissioning of community services to avoid duplication and reduce costs including nationally agreed service specifications and accreditation.
  • Provide incentives for primary and secondary care (and in some cases the voluntary sector) to collaborate to deliver integrated care and focus on commissioning for outcomes.
  • Support clinicians to develop skills beyond core competencies and to undertake higher qualifications where necessary

The results of the Call to Action for eye health, along with the findings from the Calls to Action for general practice, pharmacy and dentistry that took place over the past year, will be used by NHS England to help it shape its primary care commissioning strategy, which is expected to be published later in the year.

You can read the full response from LOCSU and the Optical Confederation by clicking here.

LOCSU managing director Katrina Venerus said: “The Optical Confederation, LOCSU and LOCs across England have had an extremely busy summer working to respond to the Call to Action. The appetite and passion among optometrists and opticians for developing their roles within the NHS and improving patient care has been clearly demonstrated from their enthusiastic contributions to local and national engagement events, as well as through the many written responses to the Call to Action submitted by LOCs and individuals. We are confident that the optical sector has made a strong case for what it can do, and we now look forward to working with NHS England and other stakeholders to make it happen. At a national level we have also worked closely with organisations from across the whole eye health sector on the response to the Call to Action from the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning. It is pleasing to see that the Council is stepping up to the challenge of providing national leadership for the eye health sector and we are delighted to be part of this truly collaborative approach. We know that the sector has made a strong case for what it can do, so we now look forward to working with NHS England to make it happen. As we have said in our response to the CTA, we do not believe the NHS can survive without making radical changes that will include putting optical practices at the centre of care pathways and delivering far more care for patients. We are looking for NHS England to ensure this happens, and quickly.”

Don Grocott, Optical Confederation chairman, said: “Three things are needed for the NHS to improve eye health in England and to meet the growing needs of an older population: IT connectivity between optical practices and the rest of the NHS, better commissioning of national pathways and more services delivered in the community. Our response to the Call to Action makes this case very clearly. This is a major opportunity to improve eye health outcomes andensure NHS money is spent more efficiently and effectively, resulting in better patient outcomes. I hope all at NHS England with their interest in population health, better outcomes and better value will be brave enough to seize this opportunity. As a united optical sector, we are!”