Government Freezes Sight Test Fees

16 March 2016

The Government announced on Monday its intention to freeze NHS sight test fees in England at 2015-16 levels for 2016-17. The continuing education & training (CET) grant will however increase by 1% and the grant to train pre-registration optometrists by 1%. 

The government has also announced an increase in patient voucher values for 2016-17 of 1%.  

Mike George, Chair of the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee said: “This is a heavy and extremely disappointing blow to a profession that has always supported and embraced reform and modernisation. It will be a bitter blow to many and we may see essential local services disappearing as a result.

"As a sector we are playing – and continue to play – key roles in the NHS England Five Year Forward View plans to transfer care to the community to take pressure off GPs, A&E and hospitals, as well as in the Government’s devolution plans. And yet once again it seems that those who deliver fully against contracts are penalised whilst those who do not are rewarded. 

"At the Department of Health Eye Health Forum last week, optical leaders heard that our request for IT connectivity assistance was still being considered. Let us hope that at least this plea will be heard."

He added: “The only positive note is that optical vouchers will increase by 1% at least benefiting patients a little.”

Ann Blackmore, OFNC Secretary said: “It is frustrating that, despite our repeated explanations over several years that the fee covers the cost of the sight test and is not simply pay related, the Government persists in erroneously connecting the fee to increasing optometrist recruitment.

"There is no way we can advise the profession to accept such an offer which is clearly not in the best interests of patients. But past experience suggests the government will impose it on us in any case.”

On hearing the news of this year’s GOS fees freeze, Chris Hunt, Optical Confederation Chair, commented: “This is hard news for a loyal and dedicated workforce. Despite the best efforts of our sector negotiators, it seems that, once again, primary care and prevention are being punished for failures elsewhere in the system. As was entirely predictable, acute providers are now forecasting well over £2billion deficits this year and the Five Year Forward View is signally failing to move services out of hospitals at any scale and pace to address this.  

"That is why we are right in pressing ahead with expanding services in the community in England where progress has been so slow.  It is also why I am pleased to see leadership being shown through the release this month of the Foresight Report on technological development and LOCSU’s ambitious expansion plans for commissioning next year.  We need to go further and faster on this, whilst at the same time protecting the public health elements that demand-led GOS delivers so well.  We have to make this future work for the benefit of the public, practitioners and practices of all sizes.  I hope the sector at all levels will rally behind the Optical Confederation to help bring these changes about.”

 

It is anticipated that the new fees and grants will come into effect on Monday 4 April.