NHS England has said it will not provide any further financial support to optical practices because of stable general ophthalmic services (GOS) activity so far this year.

It added that the additional support offered in autumn 2020 to some practices in areas of deprivation was taken up by fewer than 200 practices, which suggested limited demand for help.

The Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) has rejected NHS England’s arguments and said NHS England had showed ‘a lack of regard’ for practices that need help during the pandemic.

‘We reject both these arguments and we know the profession will be aggrieved at this decision,’ the OFNC said in a statement.

The OFNC said that GOS data only gave an aggregate picture, as it included payments for previous months submitted on paper forms and had been distorted by the rollout of eGOS.

It also disagreed with NHS England’s interpretation of the low uptake for the autumn 2020 support as it was offered during a time of lighter lockdown restrictions.

‘We know this will be a blow for the whole sector, and bitterly disappointing news to practices that may now have to reduce their operating hours or turn away patients they have supported throughout the pandemic,’ the OFNC statement said.

The OFNC said it will continue to meet with NHS England to review the impact of the pandemic on activity levels and monitor the need for future support.