In a keynote health policy speech at the Institute for Government (IfG) annual conference, Karin Smyth MP committed to working with primary care optometry to reduce hospital waiting times.

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has welcomed plans today set out by Karin Smyth MP, Shadow Health Minister, at the Institute for Government (IfG) annual conference.

In her keynote address, Karin Smyth announced Labour’s intention to ‘negotiate a deal with high street optometrists to deliver NHS outpatient appointments’ if elected as the next government.

Highlighting issues within eyecare, Karin Smyth cited that 619,000 patients are waiting for treatment, with 17,000 waiting for more than a year while their sight worsens.

Responding to the plans, Adam Sampson, AOP Chief Executive said: "We welcome the Labour Party’s focus on primary eyecare. We are facing a health crisis in this country. This includes a hospital waiting list emergency, with growing numbers of patients facing avoidable and irreversible sight loss due to delays.

“Labour have quite rightly acknowledged the important role of primary eyecare services in the community in reducing the backlog and we are committed to helping wherever we can to design services that meet demand and the needs of patients.   

“Fixing eyecare does not require years of investment in new facilities and staff training. Optometrists on the high street have the premises, the equipment and the clinical skills to deliver accessible, high-quality eyecare. All it takes is the political vision to make sure optometry is able to provide the care patients need."

Under the proposed plan, Labour would seek to extend eyecare services in the community utilising the 6000 high street optical practices across the UK to provide more care outside of hospital and closer to home.

The AOP’s Sight won’t wait campaign, launched in March 2023, has been calling for a national approach to eye care services to tackle waiting times: