The Association of Practitioners called for health secretary Thérèse Coffey to engage better with the primary care workforce while planning future healthcare changes.

In response to the announcement for improved access to GPs as part of new NHS 'Patient Plans', AOP’s chief executive Adam Sampson said: ‘The challenges facing the NHS must be addressed by a properly considered plan – and one that is forged alongside the healthcare professionals that deliver care. We therefore urge the Minister to engage with the skilled primary care workforce – of which optometry is a part – that is ready to protect the NHS now and have a meaningful impact on the lives of patients.

‘Like pharmacists, the network of community-based optometrists working in high streets up and down the country provides a huge potential resource for the NHS to use and help alleviate the pressure on GPs. And unlike stretched ophthalmology teams working in hospital departments, optometry has no significant shortage of staff and is already trained with the clinical skills needed to deliver expert care.’

Sampson added that while the sentiment is appreciated, the AOP believed that ‘the plan does not understand the primary healthcare family that ultimately is the answer to the high-quality and safe care every patient deserves.’

The AOP has written to the Department of Health and Social Care to ask for amendments be made to the government’s inaccurate reference to ‘ophthalmology’ when referring in fact to optometry’s role in primary care.