Health and Social Care Bill: Statement by the Optical Confederation

14 February 2012

The challenge with the Health and Social Care Bill itself is that it is overarching legislation leaving much of the detail to be worked out - with frighteningly short consultation periods - by subordinate bodies such as the NHS Commissioning Board and Monitor.

However, in so far as they affect optometry and optics, the Optical Confederation has generally supported the government’s proposals and in particular:

- that NHS care should be clinician-led (in the case of eye health and eye care by optometrists, opticians, ophthalmologists, orthoptists and ophthalmic nurses all working together at local level)
- consistency of approach to GOS contract issues with a “single operating model” and “single interpretation of the law” across the whole of England – a significant improvement on our experiences in the past
- a reduction in bureaucracy imposed on optical practices and businesses
- the ability at last to rebalance eye care services across local communities to deliver QIPP and better eye health outcomes for the population
- for optics to be genuinely involved as equal partners in multi-professional commissioning at local and national level
- to have eye health on the agenda as a national priority for the first time ever.

That said, we are proceeding with caution.

If the government is committed to genuine “co-production” of the way the NHS will be run in future – and to date we have seen good evidence of this from the NHS Commissioning Board Transition Team – we are confident that we can make the new arrangements work for our sector. There are, however, risks and dangers. For instance, the application of the Monitor licensing regime is inappropriate for optics and indeed for most of primary care. So whilst the government is to be congratulated on recognising the importance of eye health, there are still issues of potential bureaucracy and over-regulation to be resolved.