Policy roundup: May 2024

  • 15 May 2024
  • RCOphth Policy team

Welcome to the first in a new series of advocacy updates, in which we share our latest policy and public affairs activities and successes.

As the voice of the profession, we work closely with our members, partners across the eye care sector and policymakers to improve public policy so key challenges facing ophthalmology services across the UK are recognised and addressed.

Over the last six weeks, we’ve:

  • Informed two Westminster debates on eye care

Parliament debated eye care services not once but twice on 30 April. Having briefed several MPs on the actions we believe must be taken to secure comprehensive ophthalmology services, we were pleased to see the government questioned on its Elective Recovery Taskforce implementation plan commitment to evaluate the impact of the independent sector on long-term NHS capacity.

We were also delighted that Margaret Greenwood MP highlighted our policy asks around additional ophthalmology specialty training places, better integration with optometry services, and reform of commissioning to ensure the independent sector supports a comprehensive NHS service.

Another highlight was hearing Labour reaffirm its commitment to “turbocharge access to ophthalmology services” via a reform to the optometry contract that would enable optometrists to deliver more outpatient appointments.


  • Helped secure a commitment to accelerate the rollout of an electronic patient record system in Wales

In recent months, our Llywydd has been working hard with partners in Wales to reignite the stalled rollout of a national electronic patient record system that we believe will provide practical support to clinicians, improve patient care, and help deliver the country’s ambitious plans to regionalise eye care services.

So, we were pleased to see the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Russell George MS, secure a public commitment from the Welsh Government that a joint technical, procurement and rollout plan will be submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Health by August 2024.


  • Successfully highlighted the importance of protecting NHS staff mental health and wellbeing services

In April, we and several other royal colleges wrote a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Victoria Atkins, NHS England’s Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard and  Chief Workforce Officer Dr Navina Evans to seek assurances that staff mental health and wellbeing services would remain in place while NHSE reviews current provision.

As such, we welcomed NHSE’s subsequent announcement that the NHS Practitioner Health Service for secondary care doctors and senior NHS staff would be extended by 12 months.


  • Input to a consultation on patient safety improvements

NHSE recently sought views on whether the existing Never Events Framework remains an effective mechanism for driving improvements in patient safety. Our response highlighted that harm in ophthalmology is primarily due to capacity issues within the outpatient setting and an absence of strong systemic barriers, and called on NHSE to address factors driving capacity shortages and to work with us to define terms for events where delay to treatment and diagnosis have caused harm.

Read our response in full here.


What’s coming up?

As well as progressing work across our three policy priorities, over the next month we’ll be hosting two policy-focused sessions at EyeConUK:

  • Tuesday 21 May (14:30 – 15:30) – ‘Seeing the whole picture: What next for integrated eye care?’
  • Wednesday 22 May (08:00 – 09:00) – ‘What does eye care need to see from the next government?’

Each session will see a panel of experts from ophthalmology, optometry, NHSE, the Department of Health Northern Ireland and patient charities discuss the most urgent policy priorities facing ophthalmology, including  workforce capacity, better integrated care with optometry and the role played by independent sector providers.

Register today to join discussions about the future of your specialty.