Viewpoint December 10
To paraphrase an old Christmas ditty, Christmas is coming the hospital optometrist is getting fat! What, you may ask, is Moneo talking about?
December 1 saw the introduction of the new Agenda for Change system of pay within the NHS. This is the most radical pay review for NHS employees that has ever taken place. Agreement has been achieved with all parties to implement this scheme. For years the job of a hospital optometrist has been viewed by many as the poor option for an optometrist. But the ugly duckling of optometry, it would appear, has now developed into a veritable swan.
Gone are the days of poor pay. According to the initial documentation a basic grade optometrist can expect to earn up to 29,300, while a senior optometrist can earn up to a maximum of 69,200. This is an amazing figure and suggests that many hospital optometrists can expect to see a significant hike in their present salaries.
Clearly the figures quoted here are maximum ones and there are various lower intervals, but it is apparent that the job of a hospital optometrist is no longer the Cinderella role it has always been perceived as.
It is also interesting to note how under certain circumstances within the NHS the role of an optometrist can be readily assessed against peers and remunerated appropriately. What a pity this has proved to be so impossible within the GOS sector over the years. Maybe our negotiators should be talking to those within the RCN, Unison, and other major unions involved in the process to see how we could carry out a similar exercise for high street optometry.
What of the high street?
Will the introduction of Agenda For Change have an impact on traditional high street optometric practice? At a first glance many may not see how this system will affect everyday practice but it is clear that in time it may well have a large impact.
Of course optometrists, especially the newer ones within the profession, will have a national pay scale which they can refer to, but so has every other employee within the practice. Receptionists and clinical support staff will, in time, begin to look towards the pay spines to see where they can find a job of equal weighting and begin to compare salaries. I suspect in a lot of cases they will find that they could get paid a lot more within the NHS. This could have two effects for a practice. Either there will be an increase in demands for reasonable pay or that employee in whom the practice has invested training will look for employment elsewhere.
Agenda for Change is an opportunity for all employees to be rewarded fairly and equitably. GP practices are already being advised by AfC leads at PCTs to consider paying their nursing and ancillary staff at levels commensurate to those in hospitals or risk losing them to the secondary sector. This is good advice and ignoring it could prove a great risk to optometric practices as well.
In keeping with tradition I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope 2005 brings you and your families all good things. For those who have not yet decided what they want for Christmas I have checked with the GOC and confirm you cannot get CET points gift vouchers.