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As one may expect, the news of Labour’s plans to ‘put high street opticians to work’ to clear NHS ophthalmology backlogs (News, January 23 and In Focus, page 7) made some headlines in the mainstream press. As one has very much come to expect these days, the comment sections made for interesting, if a little depressing, reading.

‘Privatisation through the backdoor,’ arguments were the most common theme among the disgruntled commenters from Royal Tunbridge Wells. Well, yes. The private sector has been bailing out the NHS for decades and the service isn’t going to be rescued through investment alone. It needs to be reformed from top to bottom and if one of those ways means leaning on the private sector to provide procedures at less cost to the taxpayer, then in my view, so be it. What the Labour Party has proposed is something the optometric sector has been able to do for a long time now, and way before waiting lists spiralled out of control to where they are now. It was good to see some optometrists in the comments making this point, even if it was from the perspective of ‘too little, too late.’ It was also nice to see optometrists mention remuneration for these services, too, because fair fees will be crucial to how the services are offered. Even more crucially, who will offer them.

I’m always interested in public perception of the optical sector, but comments along the lines of ‘not sure I’d want a high street optician doing my cataract surgery lol,’ speak more of trouble with reading comprehension than a poor opinion of the sector. What was good to see, however, were those talking about referral pathways already in place and how efficient they were, which bodes well should Labour’s plans come to fruition.



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