NHS optical voucher values will rise by 1% from April 1, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Earl Howe announced on Friday (March 1).
The increase, which follows a 2.5% rise in 2012, has been labelled ‘disappointing’ by the optometric fees review committee (OFRC), which has fought hard to highlight the importance of a further increase over the last 12 months.
The vouchers are available for children, people on low incomes and individuals with complex sight problems, which help with the cost of buying spectacles.
Annual increases to NHS dental and prescription charges were announced on the same day, with a 20p rise in the prescription charge to £7.85, and a 50p hike to the dental charge for one course of treatment to £18 confirmed.
Secretary of the OFRC and interim chief executive of the AOP, Richard Carswell said: “This is very disappointing news. Once again optical patients are being penalised and optical providers are being asked to subsidise vision correction for the poorest in society in these toughest of trading times. Inevitably this will mean that fewer practices will be able to supply spectacles within NHS voucher values. OFRC has fought hard to put the case for a fair increase on behalf of patients. It is extremely saddening that our arguments have been disregarded.”
Last year’s rise was the first increase in voucher values since April 2010. Prior to the two-year freeze, values rose by 2.7% and 2% in 2008 and 2009 respectively.