Chris Bennett: Blind to true cost of cutting suggestion
Author: Chris Bennett
Sexing up optometry now looks more important than ever in the light of the latest attack from MP Dominic Raab.
In a pre-Budget teaser last week the member for Esher and Walton highlighted the billions of pounds that could be saved by the Exchequer if generous universal benefits were removed from the well-heeled elderly of the land (see In Focus).
Outlining the kind of money-saving, low-hanging fruit the chancellor might pick and pop into the savings side of his little red box, Raab happened upon the example of universal free eye examinations for the elderly. Clearly free eye examinations are viewed as a little luxury lavished on the elderly as a gesture of goodwill. Although the hotly-tipped Tory was recently reshuffled to the back benches by the Prime Minister he is a political force of the future. The fact he chose optometry as an example of an obvious budget cut is a disaster for the profession and the optical business.
Vision Express’s CEO, Jonathan Lawson – about the only person to come out fighting from the optical side – offered the kind of sensible reasons why discouraging eye examinations might represent a false economy. Discouraging people from having free eye examinations today will cost the hospital sector dear tomorrow. Sadly, cogent argument and politics have never been happy bedfellows.
Emotion and perception drive politics so it’s essential the value of the eye examination and eye health in general is raised. That eye health is undervalued by the public is irksome to the profession.
When those attitudes are used by MPs as the basis for cutting real cash from budgets the profession should be issuing a fast and furious rebuttal.