Optometrist Gordon Ilett has started his new role as chair of the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) and thanked outgoing chair Paul Carroll for his leadership during the pandemic.

The new chair said the OFNC’s top priority for the year would be to continue supporting the optical sector during Covid-19 and pursuing a fairer level of GOS sight test fee and grants.

Ilett said: ‘Like Paul, I have worked at the sharp end owning my own optical practice for over 30 years. I know how challenging the last year has been for everyone in the sector. GOS contractors throughout England have worked incredibly hard to keep providing care to their patients, even in the early stages of the pandemic when remote care was key in the absence of PPE.’

He noted that practices are still facing financial challenges because of the restrictions introduced at the start of 2021 and encouraged GOS contractors to keep the OFNC informed of ongoing challenges.

Ilett highlighted that the 1.9% increase in GOS sight test fee was ‘a start’ but added that more was needed after it had been ‘badly eroded by rising costs and inflation in recent years.’

‘Maintaining patient services and achieving fairer, evidence-based, fees will remain our focus as, once again, the NHS reorganises around us,’ he said.

Outgoing chair Paul Carroll said that the work of the OFNC was a collective effort and that it had been a privilege to lead the team.

‘This has been the year where, backed by the tremendous effort and support of the whole sector, we have been able to demonstrate our vital importance to the nation’s eye health. I wish Gordon every success in his role as chair and helping us secure fairer funding for the essential public health service we provide,’ he added.