The IHPN has responded to data released by the Association of Optometrists (AOP) which shows the extent and impact of delays in NHS treatment for patients needing eye care or treatment.
The AOP is writing today to the new Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Primary Care and Public Health, Dame Andrea Leadsom asking for urgent support and to honour commitments made by her predecessor, Neil O’Brien.
David Hare, chief executive, Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said: “Today’s data from the Association of Optometrists (AOP) highlights concerns which our members and their staff who deliver ophthalmology and optometry services will recognise all too well.
“We know that NHS waits are having a significant impact on patients, and that many are taking the decision to go private as a result – the AOP’s data reinforces our own research in that respect.
“We welcome the acknowledgement by the AOP that the independent sector is a crucial partner in delivering high quality, prompt services for patients.
“Ophthalmology is a specialty where an increase in independent sector activity has led to many more patients being seen – particularly in terms of cataract procedures. Some months this year have seen an almost 200% increase in activity compared with 2019, before the pandemic, making it one of the very few specialities where more NHS patients are being seen than before the pandemic.
“Cataract surgery is one of the most common treatments required by patients across the NHS. It is vital for enhancing individuals’ quality of life by restoring vision, and any delays in its provision can have serious implications for patients’ well-being, and their ability to live and work.
“Optometrists in the UK play a crucial role in maintaining the vision and eye health of the population. Their expertise and commitment contribute significantly to identifying and addressing eye conditions promptly, preventing potential complications, and we need to do what we can to empower them to deliver.”