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Are we under-served?

The optical profession has high levels of satisfaction, but are there enough optometrists to go around?

18 Feb 2016 by John White

Workforce surveys always make for interesting reading – although the picture each paints is often complex and brings on a healthy bout of head-scratching.

The College of Optometrists’ latest offering, published last week, seeks to build up a picture of the present landscape in optics, and identify the trends to contextualise how the future might look.

The man leading the project, the College’s research director, Mike Bowen, told OT’s assistant editor, Olivia Wannan, that one area to watch is the spread of optometrists across the UK, coupled with wider questions about the ‘supply’ of professionals into the sector.

Highlighting the Midlands as an area with a high concentration of optometrists, especially around university towns that provide optometry courses, Mr Bowen notes: “People seem to want to study where they live … and work near where they studied. It’s a generational thing.”

In areas with the lowest frequency of optometrists, which often have older populations and therefore higher demands for eye health services, Mr Bowen challenges the sector to ask: “Are there areas that are under-served?” And it is those areas, coupled with an ageing population and growing eye health issues, that lead Mr Bowen to conclude that understanding the likely level of demand for optical professionals is “complicated… and we need further analysis.”

The survey reiterates a longstanding trend that levels of satisfaction in the sector are strong, with 80% of optometrists and dispensing opticians reporting to be ‘satisfied’ or ‘extremely satisfied’ with their job. It is harder to believe this curve will continue upwards based on the survey’s findings that the percentage of optometrist respondents earning more than £40,000 has fallen since 2010, from 52% to 43%. Reversing this trend must be another priority for the sector to resolve.

Image credit: Flickr/Megan E. Bluhm Faoldenhauer

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