Image copyright Karen Goodwin Image caption Karen Goodwin is a British optometrist who is one of nearly 3,000 who went on strike
A five-day strike by optometrists in England and Wales that threatened to disrupt eye care for millions of people has been suspended after talks.
Health bosses said the strike was not “fully justified”, and has asked for a meeting about job security.
More than 3,500 optometrists took part in the strike. Some will return to work on Friday morning.
Doctors have accused doctors of being out of touch with their patients. They are staying at home for three days while they protest against a new contract.
More than 900 health unions and occupational health professionals are holding protests around the country.
The Information and Speech Profiles Council, which represents optometrists, said it was pleased the talks went ahead.
As part of the five-day walkout, optometrists held appointments with parents and children while refusing to offer appointments for people who needed medical glasses or contact lenses.
The Met Office warned the campaign of action could affect childcare on the first day of the work stoppage on Wednesday, with fewer staff at eye care centres to support eye tests and check up appointments.
Many of the optometrists who took part in the industrial action are single parents. They said they felt the new contract was unfair because it would mean the optometrists losing 2,000 jobs in the near future.
Optometrists’ right to self-employed status
Under the new contract optometrists would see a step-down from a basic salary of £38,000 to a maximum of £26,000 in the first three years.
The contract talks came after the NHS said it was changing optometrists’ self-employed status to a “pay and conditions” contract.
The contract would apply from 2020 for all NHS optometrists. They will no longer be able to bring in extra income on top of their basic salary.
Health bosses say the contract was necessary because the NHS is being asked to make a £32bn savings by 2022.
More than 500 medical doctors and nurses have since held a demonstration at NHS Employers’ national policy meeting in London.
Dr Suhas Chakravarty said the optometric group “aren’t up to scratch when it comes to addressing the modern needs of their patients”.
He added: “To their credit they’re willing to take on the responsibilities and legal obligations they now have to patients that they wish to do on behalf of and for but are unable to provide.”