Published: 10/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5942 Page 22
Simon Browning, optometrist, Bedford
As a practising optometrist I am writing to express my anger - and that of many of my colleagues - at health secretary John Reid's£95m bribe to GPs to run his choose and book system.
From 1 February this year choose and book will be in place for cataract surgery. Mr Reid expects optometrists to implement this, but there has never been any additional funding or infrastructure support to do this.
Optometrists and primary care trusts will be expected to operate paper-based systems when all other parties will communicate electronically. This is stupid, and wastes PCTs' time and money.
In the guidance given to PCTs, the Department of Health had the audacity to suggest that optometrists would need to buy a computer system with a secure broadband connection to NHSnet - and pay for it themselves.
Many optometrists will see this as a clear indication that they do not want to involve optometry in the NHS. Far from implementing cataract choice, we may now refer them back to GPs. This would be detrimental for patients and must surely be obvious to John Reid.
If the government does not signal its intentions to introduce fair funding across all frontline practitioners soon, choose and book for cataracts may well fall flat.