Optometry body says Scottish Government’s health budget is short sighted

Optometry Scotland says its sector is “uniquely disadvantaged” by the Scottish health budget as the only community health service facing a funding cut.

The non profit-making organisation is urging the Scottish Government to rethink its budget plans and spend more on the country’s eye health.

The budget sees a rise in overall health spending by 7.1 per cent in cash terms, or 5.2 per cent after inflation, however General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) sees a 0.8 per cent decrease after inflation is accounted for.

David Quigley, chair of Optometry Scotland, says: “It is concerning that despite a rise in health spending there is a decrease for GOS, meaning inflationary pressures are simply not being recognised.

“When challenged on this issue in this week’s budget scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament’s Health & Sport Committee, Cabinet Secretary Jeane Freeman did not dispute that community optometrists would be expected to do more with less.

“In our view this is simply unfair and unsustainable. For the optometry sector to maintain our level of service, there needs to be a greater level of equity within the overall health budget.”

Optometry Scotland is calling for a real term GOS budget increase of 3 per cent (1.1 per cent on last year, plus inflation at 1.9 per cent) which equates to £111.6m rather than the projected £109.5m.

It believes this increase would be “negligible and reasonable” as GOS accounts for just 0.7 per cent of total health spending. Furthermore it is the only community health service provider to receive a real terms decrease (inclusive of the General Medical Services, General Dental Services and General Pharmaceutical Services Contractors’ Remuneration budgets).

Optometry Scotland is proud of what has been achieved since its formation in 2006 and says current funding of £108m per annum allows the consistent delivery of more than two million NHS funded eye examinations each year.

This current funding has markedly changed the nature of eye care in Scotland in recent years.  For example 80 per cent of acute and emergency eye care cases are treated in the community today, compared with 25 per cent in 2006; and an increase in NHS funded eye examinations by 47 per cent since 2006. This equates to 370,000 patients avoiding hospital each year and has saved the NHS approximately £72million.

However Optometry Scotland says it is impossible to maintain or improve upon this with a real terms cut from the Scottish Government.

David Quigley explained: “It is clear that this proactive approach is making a material difference in improving the early detection of eye disease and stemming the upsurge of avoidable sight loss and blindness.

“Consider also the tsunami of the ageing population which will only continue to increase the public spending bill if early detection and management of sight threatening conditions such as cataract, glaucoma and AMD is not met.

“For these reasons we simply cannot understand why GOS finds itself uniquely disadvantaged by the health budget proposals. It is the responsibility of the Scottish Government to find the budget required to properly support what is widely acknowledged as an excellent community service – to do otherwise would be to drive the health inequalities that it seeks to reduce.”

Ends

Issued by Beattie Communications on behalf of Optometry Scotland.

For further information, please contact:

Lesley McIvor / 01324 602552 / 07740492333 / lesley.mcivor@beattiegroup.com

Rachel Connor / 01324 602563 / 07768468812 / rachel.connor@beattiegroup.com

About Optometry Scotland

Optometry Scotland is a non-profit making organisation established to develop and represent the views of the entire Optometry sector of Optometrists, Dispensing Opticians and Optical Bodies Corporate to the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government Health Directorates and other relevant stakeholders.

Its aim is to develop, maintain and promote and world class eye health and primary eyecare service for the people of Scotland.

The organisation is the sole representative body for optometry in Scotland which negotiates the overall GOS budget with the Scottish Government on an annual basis.