Connect with us


In Focus: Specsavers manifesto tackles postcode lottery – Optician Online



In Focus: Specsavers manifesto tackles postcode lottery – Optician Online

A manifesto published by Specsavers has outlined how community optometry and audiology could improve patient access to care and support the NHS by freeing up millions of GP and hospital appointments.

Giles Edmonds, clinical services director at Specsavers, said: ‘The Specsavers manifesto sets out changes in primary care eye and hearing health that have the biggest positive impact, tackling a postcode lottery when it comes to access to care.’

Specsavers launched the manifesto ahead of the general election on July 4 as polls identified that improving healthcare was among the top issues for voters.

Edmonds added: ‘For eye health, we are urging the next government to back community minor and urgent eye care services to treat minor eye conditions available from NHS opticians in every community throughout England. 

‘Incoming ministers should also make full use of the skills of optometrists and their clinical teams in England by detecting, managing and monitoring glaucoma in the community through a single standardised pathway integrating hospital eye services and high street opticians.

‘Unnecessary barriers to eye health services should also be scrapped in England for people who can’t leave their own homes unaccompanied, including those residing in care homes and for people experiencing homelessness not in receipt of state benefits.’ 

Edmonds highlighted that primary care optometry could save millions of GP consultations and routine hospital appointments every year and manage patients closer to home.

‘With a consistent commissioning and funding approach we can do even more to help patients and free up capacity in busy hospitals. Specsavers is also committed to the development of clinicians and their teams to deliver positive change,’ he said.


Deliverable change

Specsavers’ A Manifesto for Better Sight and Hearing highlighted that the annual combined cost of sight loss, blindness and untreated hearing loss to the UK economy was £62bn. It noted this cost would increase as the population aged, which meant the UK needed to do everything it could to ensure those at risk of sight or hearing loss could get the required care.

Specsavers called for the government to make important changes that would make it easier for more people to access care closer to home, at the earliest opportunity and at a lower cost per patient. Changes, the multiple said, could be delivered at scale and pace, and without major reforms to the health system or significant additional investment from the NHS.

Specsavers outlined three key areas to improve eye health in its manifesto: put in place community minor and urgent eye care services for the treatment of minor eye conditions; make full use of the skills and capabilities of optometrists and their clinical teams through a single, standardised pathway integrating hospital eye services and high-street opticians; enable equitable access to eye care for all by removing unnecessary barriers.


Accessing audiology

Audiology services was another area that Specsavers identified as having potential to deliver significant improvements for patients and the NHS. Gordon Harrison, director of professional advancement at Specsavers, said this would require making audiology a primary care service across the UK.

‘We want to see a nationally commissioned primary care audiology service for adults of all ages. It will enable everyone who needs NHS hearing care to refer themselves to a hearing care provider in the community, exactly as they do for problems with their eyesight,’ he said.

Harrison said about 40% of new referrals to UK hospitals for ear and hearing care in 2023 were for uncomplicated hearing problems, such as wax build up, presbycusis or a runny nose.

‘We are calling for the commissioning of removal of ear wax by primary care audiologists, in the community, everywhere so that ability to pay is not a barrier to receiving care. Efforts to encourage hearing aid use as a means of facilitating life-long learning, continuing employment, maintaining independence and social engagement must also be supported by the incoming government.

‘The Association for Primary Care Audiology Providers commissioned research to show that if access to primary care audiology was improved, almost all these people could have their needs met more conveniently, and more cost effectively for the NHS in primary care.

‘More than two million GP appointments could also be saved per year, enabling GPs to focus on more urgent medical needs and more than 250,000 hospital appointments saved per year freeing up time and capacity for one of the busiest hospital specialities,’ he added. 

Continue Reading