The development of a standard specification for ICBs is welcome but ambition for a national approach ‘should not be sacrificed’.

The Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) and the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) have been invited to develop a standard service specification for minor and urgent eyecare for commissioners by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Primary Care and Public Health, Neil O’Brien.

Responding to the invitation, Adam Sampson, Chief Executive of the Association of Optometrists (AOP), commented: “This request is strongly welcomed by the AOP. Our policy and influencing work – including the successful Sight Won’t Wait campaign – has consistently called on the Government to recognise that extended eyecare services delivered by primary care optometry, including minor and urgent eyecare, relieves pressure on hospital eye services, A&Es and GP appointments. The approach to the profession for the development of this pathway is a response to that pressure.

“We have reached a significant moment for optometry. The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is right to acknowledge the role the profession plays, providing valued eyecare across the country. And the intention to make more effective use of our highly trained clinical workforce, coupled with a commitment to the delivery of eyecare services that are fit for the future and able to reach more patients earlier, is overdue.

“LOCSU and CCHEC have the important task of designing the standard service specification for minor and urgent eyecare, on behalf of the whole sector, and the AOP is committed to assist wherever we can.

“The development of this specification must be done at pace and with pragmatism, but this should not mean that ambition should be sacrificed. Bold thinking is needed to ensure that the scope of the services offered, and the associated pricing structure, are sustainable for optometry, while also meeting the needs of an ageing population.

“Crucially, the standard service specification for minor and urgent eyecare should be available everywhere and accessible to all. While some ICB areas have commissioned existing MECS and CUES, it is evident that commissioning is highly variable across the country. That is why we continue to advocate for a national approach that brings the postcode lottery of eyecare to an end. A locally commissioned model that lacks additional funding and has no guidance from DHSC to prioritise the new service is going to fall short for patients and limit the impact optometry can make. It would also fail to live up to the Ministerial expectations that this new initiative will have a significant impact on the nation’s eyecare.”