View from the AIO: Nothing is free in life
There is general support for the concept that community optometry should take increasing prominence as the provider of primary eye care services across the UK. This goes beyond the independent sector which in the majority has been clinically focused on long term eye health care for many years.
Specsavers is moving to introduce OCT into its stores and there is clearly an appetite in the multiples to participate in Mecs and others local schemes.
So what is getting in the way of accelerating progress in what surely makes sense for optical professionals and NHS alike?
Well, in England, with 211 CCGs all with their own issues, it is virtually impossible to get a coherent approach. There is clearly a greater strategic understanding of the role that optometry can constructively play in Scotland and Wales, but politicians in Westminster will never accept that they could learn anything from Holyrood or the Senedd.
But fundamentally optics contributes to the challenge of getting the message across. While eye testing is touted as ‘free’ by a few organisations the profession will always face a challenge to be taken seriously as a provider of clinical services.
The reality of course is that nothing is ‘free’ in life. In optics the business model is such that the cost of any ‘free’ eye test is borne in whole or in part from the GOS fee together with the margin on the sale of eyewear.
While this is widely known and accepted in the world of optics, it is not apparent to the general public or indeed to the medical profession at large. As a simple building block for the future of optics let’s all stop pretending our professional and clinical services can be had for ‘free’, and in so doing also cease to demean the excellent eye health services we offer.