Pictured above: Cllr Jonathan McShane, Local Government Association and Katrina Venerus, Local Optical Committee Support Unit
High street optical practices can deliver preventative health for patients, especially for those who do not often visit a GP, as highlighted by a new guide for local authorities, jointly produced by the Optical Confederation, Local Optical Committee Support Unit and the Local Government Association.
The eye health and public health experts say that optical practices are perfectly placed to deliver health and lifestyle check-ups, offering care closer to home for patients and taking pressure off of hospitals and GPs.
The guide, Improving eye health through community optical practice, calls on local authorities to make better use of the nationwide network of optical practices in every community to make every contact count and help combat smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, falls, isolation and more.
“A sea change is required in eye health care delivery, and opticians and optometrists can be a vital part of that,” says Katrina Venerus of the Optical Confederation. “With the NHS under such serious financial constraint, health and well being boards are encouraged to utilise existing resources such as optical practices in their plans to tackle unhealthy lifestyles and future problems of an ageing population. Optical practices should be the first port of call for all eye health issues, not just thought of for sight tests and buying glasses. Optometrists and opticians are dedicated health professionals who can make a difference to the health of local people in every community.”
Opticians and optometrists have the clinical skills and the long-term customer relationships, along with community locations and seven-day opening, to make significant health interventions. Practices can act as high-street health hubs advising on lifestyles, behavioural change and signposting, as demanded by the Five Year Forward View’s focus on prevention.
The guide is aimed at Health and Wellbeing Boards in England and Scrutiny Committees, who may find the guide useful when reviewing Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs).