What we work on

Priority areas of activity

Current work being undertaken by the IVG falls into the following two priorities:

Ensuring implementation of the National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS had been seeking to reform care through pathway and service integration. This was initially being delivered through the National Outpatient Transformation Programme which began in 2018/19.

Since then, the project has evolved to become part of the National Pathway Improvement Programme – with eye health being identified as the vanguard for NHS pathway transformation via the National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme (NECRTP).

The overarching aim of the NECRTP is to minimise avoidable loss of sight due to patients not being seen on time, by moving more care safely into the community where possible.1 This is in part supported by greater digitisation of services and more co-ordination of support and equity within and between ICSs.

The IVG welcomes the commitment shown to improving eye care, however the COVID-19 pandemic has understandably caused delays to the implementation of the programme – impacting progress.

NECRTP has the potential to improve patient experience, outcomes, safety and quality of care in a sustainable and efficient way, but only if it is properly prioritised and implemented. The IVG are eager to work in partnership with the Government and health system to ensure these ambitions can be realised.

Driving improved capacity in ophthalmic services

COVID-19 has put tremendous strain on the health service, not least in eye care. Figures released by the National Audit Office (NAO) show that, in England, in September 2021 there were almost 200,000 ophthalmology patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for elective care, making it the second highest specialty, after trauma and orthopaedics.2

The IVG is concerned by the rising elective care backlog, and the number of missed eye tests as a result of the pandemic.

To begin addressing these issues, the IVG believes that efforts should be made to upskill optometrists, helping achieve the NECRTP aim of delivering more care in the community. This would help stymie the crisis in eye health by reducing some of the burden on secondary care, while simultaneously tackling a significant portion of the backlog of 5.83 million patients2 currently on the waiting list, through greater provision of care in the community.

1 The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (2021). The National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation (NECRT) Programme: A message from President Bernie Chang – The Royal College of Ophthalmologists. Available at: https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/news-views/necrt-programme-president-message/ [Accessed February 2022]

2 National Audit Office (2021). NHS backlogs and waiting times in England. Available at: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/NHS-backlogs-and-waiting-times-in-England.pdf [Accessed: February 2022]