Following the Scottish Government’s budget announcement, Optometry Scotland has welcomed the news that the GOS budget will be maintained in 2011.
At the announcement, Finance Secretary John Swinney explained: “Central to this is our commitment to maintain health spending in real terms and to protect local government funding by maintaining its share of the Scottish Budget.”
The previous figure of £88 million set out by the Government has been increased for 2011/12 to £93 million in line with the actual cost of GOS for 2010/11.
As a result everyone in Scotland will continue to receive free eye health examinations (paid for by the SGHD) and it will allow the optometric profession to continue working towards the elimination of avoidable blindness in line with the VISION 2020 directive.
Optometry Scotland’s Chair, Peter Carson commented: “We are delighted with the continued support the Scottish Government gives to GOS. Scotland has a world class eye health service but this can only be maintained through continued funding.”
“Since the free eye health exam was introduced in 2006 we have seen a steady increase in the amount of people using this valuable service. It is fantastic that Scottish people are starting to take responsibility for the health of their eyes, but we must continue to work together to ensure every man, woman and child visits their optometrist on a regular basis in order to eradicate avoidable sight loss and blindness.
He added: “Once every two years, or more often if recommended by your optometrist, can give you peace of mind and ultimately it could end up saving your eyesight. It’s free so why not take advantage of it.”
This announcement by the Scottish Government follows Optometry Scotland’s recent attendance at the SNP, Liberal Democrat and Labour party political conferences across Scotland which, were very positively received by party members and supporters.
The Liberal Democrats party conference was the first of the three conferences and the Optometry Scotland stand had one of the best spots in the Vine Venue, Dunfermline.
The stand attracted a lot of attention throughout the day, with many Lib Dem delegates visiting interested in what OS had to say on the importance of eye health and have pictures taken of the back of their eyes.
MSPs who visited the stand included Tavish Scott (Leader of Lib Dem Party), Michael Moore (Secretary of State for Scotland/Deputy Leader), and Ross Finnie (Member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sports Committee and Lib Dem Spokesperson on Health)
OS managed to have a chat with all of the above MSPs and the general consensus was that GOS is providing an excellent service and its integration into primary healthcare was commended.
Optometry Scotland effectively conveyed its message to maintain universally funded eye examinations in Scotland to many of the delegates and, notably, to those mentioned previously who have an important voice in both Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.
The SNP party conference was next, held in Perth Concert Hall over four days. It was an excellent opportunity for OS to network with other health care professionals, lobby MSPs and highlight the importance of eye health care to party members and supporters.
Optometry Scotland’s Chair, Peter Carson commented: “I am pleased to say that the majority of SNP delegates, including members of the press who attended, were well informed of the importance of eye health checks. There was sometimes a long line of people waiting at the stand, as everyone wanted a picture of the back of their eyes, which was great!
“We took the opportunity here to reiterate the importance of regular eye health checks and also the underlying health problems that could be picked up when attending for an eye health check!
“The MSPs that came to our stand and had a picture taken of the back of their eyes included; Nicola Sturgeon (Health and Wellbeing/Deputy First Minister), Shona Robinson (Public Health Minister) who popped along to say hello but didn’t get her eyes checked this time as we have checked her eyes so many times before and Christine Grahame (Convenor of the Health and Sports Committee).”
Next up was the Labour party conference, which was held in the Corran Halls, Oban. It was the last party conference in this round but one of the busiest!
Optometry Scotland again had an excellent location for its stand, which attracted a lot of visitors over the course of the weekend.
MPs and MSPs that visited the OS Stand included Ed Miliband (MP) – Leader of the Labour Party, Iain Gray (MSP) Leader of the Scottish Labour Party and Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton MSP) – Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing.
OS had the opportunity to speak at two fringe events over the course of the weekend. On Fri 29th Peter Carson presented at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, where Dr Richard Simpson MSP was also presenting.
This was an opportunity to raise awareness of independent prescribing for Optometrist to Pharmaceutical representatives and discuss ways in which optometry has integrated itself in to the NHS as a primary health care provider. The wet AMD pilot in Ayrshire and Arran was also highlighted.
On Sat 30th Gill Syme presented at the RNIBs’ fringe event regarding the benefits optometry provide in preventative care and the needs to have eye examinations to detect potentially sight threatening problems and thus help eliminate avoidable blindness.
Dr Richard Simpson MSP was also at this meeting where he stated that “as long as he was part of the Health Committee within the Labour party, he would assist the optometry profession to continue to provide their current level of care to patients in Scotland.”
Peter Carson added: “I’d like to thank all of the Optometrists in Scotland that sent donations to OS to allow us to be present at each of the party conferences. I’d also like to thank the Optical Confederation (ABDO, AOP and FODO) for their donation too.
“Without the financial assistance from everyone we would not have been able to attend all of the party conferences, where we represented all Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians in Scotland. I cannot stress how important it is to have a presence at these events to highlight the importance of eye health and the primary care service we provide in Scotland.”