New NHS England funding proposals for optical practices working during the current phase of the Covid-19 pandemic have been rejected by the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC).

The OFNC put the revised proposals forward on June 16 and said NHS England publicly committed to working with together the following day but didn’t come forward with any new arrangements for over two weeks.

‘Yesterday NHS England put to us for the first time a very limited proposal for temporary further funding, which we rejected as inadequate and unworkable,’ said a OFNC statement issued this afternoon (July 3, 2020).

‘We have written again to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Minister for Primary Care, to ensure that NHS England works with us urgently on new funding arrangements to enable practices to maintain the delivery of NHS services.

‘We have told NHS England that funding for NHS commissioned primary eye care services during this phase of the pandemic must:

  • Cover the additional costs of providing NHS eye care during this phase, including enhanced infection prevention and control measures
  • Fund practices to deliver remote care for NHS patients, in line with guidance from NHS England, the General Optical Council and the College of Optometrists
  • Ensure that practices in relatively deprived areas that largely provide NHS care, and domiciliary providers that continue to face difficulty in accessing vulnerable patients in care homes, can survive and continue to provide NHS eye care
  • Fulfil NHS England’s requirement to incentivise providers to prioritise NHS patients, and to secure value for money
  • Align with the arrangements NHS England makes during local lockdowns so that providers can focus on meeting patient needs throughout the pandemic, keeping pressure off GPs and hospitals

The OFNC statement concluded: ‘We know the continued uncertainty over future funding arrangements is causing immense difficulty and concern for eye care providers across England. We are continuing to press NHS England to work constructively with us to address our proposals and develop a solution which is fit for purpose and meets the needs of patients, NHS England and NHS primary eye care providers. We will provide more information as soon as we can.’