In a debate in Westminster this week, Members of Parliament from various parties discussed how to better support eye care services. This included focusing on workforce shortages in ophthalmology, the need for better integration and a national strategy for eye health.
Citing RCOphth data from our 2018 census showing we needed more consultant ophthalmologists, Margaret Ferrier MP stated that ‘Recruiting and retaining staff in the ophthalmology workforce needs to be a primary consideration’.
Jim Shannon MP, who led the debate, highlighted research from the British Ophthalmological Surveillance Unit (BOSU) on vision loss due to delays to follow-up appointments, when arguing that ‘We must invest in the workforce we need to deliver current and future eye care’.
A number of MPs, including Dr Matthew Offord MP and Lia Nici MP, spoke about their personal experience of vision loss. Nici specifically praised the treatment she received from clinicians at Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby, citing the ‘fantastic ophthalmology team’ led by Mr Kotta and Mrs Bagga.
Key other points raised in the debate were the need:
- to appoint a National Clinical Director for Eye Care
- to prioritise better integration of eye care services in the move towards implementing integrated care systems
- to develop a national eye health strategy for England.
Responding on behalf of the government, Health Minister Maria Caulfield MP pointed to recent NHS funding that will help to support ophthalmology including ‘new surgical hubs that will drive through high-volume services, such as cataract surgeries’. She also emphasised the role of the National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme in working across all systems to address workforce issues and improve service delivery.
The Minister also outlined that the National Clinical Director for Eye Care ‘will oversee services at a national level, which will filter down to tackle inequalities and disparities’.
RCOphth believes this debate was positive in helping to raise awareness of the key issues facing ophthalmology and the wider eye health sector. We will continue to engage with politicians from all parties across the four nations to stress the urgency of practical solutions, especially to tackle workforce shortages.
A full transcript of the debate is available via the UK Parliament website.