On September 1, some 2,500 optometrists in the province of Ontario withdrew part government-funded eye care service provision for children under 18 and adults over the age of 65 in a long-running dispute over levels of reimbursement (In Focus: https://www.opticianonline.net/features/in-focus-b...).

When compared to the drawn out, seemingly apathetic back and forth debates between the usual protagonists over the level of GOS reimbursement in the home nations, what has been going on in Ontario seems positively revolutionary. Maybe optometrists over here could look at what has gone on and count themselves rather fortunate.

There is plenty to applaud the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) for – it hasn’t caved to the offer of a paltry 8% increase from the government and when the chips have been down, the association has genuinely gone into bat for its members.

But, and there is always a but in circumstances such as this, patients shouldn’t be the ones to bear the brunt. In Ontario right now, patients are being contacted by practices to tell them about their cancelled appointment and being put on a waiting list. Given the restricted access to eye care in the past 18 months through the Covid-19 pandemic, any further delay in sight care appointments could mean patients pay the ultimate price. It’s a similar result when a practice pulls out of NHS provision; patient access becomes that little bit harder.

Patients in Ontario don’t seem phased, though. It’s a stark difference between the disputes in Canada and the UK as to just how mobilised and engaged the public are in the debate. Some 300,000 Ontarians signed petitions and wrote letters to the province’s Ministry of Health and are standing alongside the optometrists.

I would love to see any of the associations in the UK mobilise the general public in the same way to support any form of increased reimbursement from the government. I would also love a reimagined Singer Vehicles Porsche 911, but that isn’t happening either.