The changing role of optometry was a key message in a number of talks at 100% Optical last month. In his first exclusively optical address, MP Alistair Burt, Minister of State for Community and Social Care, stressed that patients shouldn’t see GPs for every medical ailment and the whole range of health professionals, include eye health, need to be utilised in the delivery of health care.
Expanding this message further, Specsavers’ Doug Perkins called on optometrists to embrace extended optical services and expand their skill set in order to drive forward and move with “the changing face of optics.”
Positively the discussion shows no sign of abating, with the president of the College of Ophthalmologists, Professor Carrie MacEwen, expressing support for the expansion of the eye health services offered by optometrists – as well as orthoptists and ophthalmic nurses – yesterday (16 March).
Talking to the BBC, Professor MacEwen stressed that hundreds of people are losing their sight permanently every year due to eye specialists being “over-stretched and under-resourced.” With ophthalmic hospital appointments having grown by 30% over the last five years, and waiting times also an issue, Professor MacEwen was clear that something has to be done.
The AOP was quick to issue comment supporting Professor MacEwen’s view. "Optometrists are ideally placed to provide high levels of eye care to patients in the community, and have a vital role to play in reducing preventable vision loss," said Henry Leonard, AOP clinical and regulatory officer, and an optometrist himself.
Demonstrating how the AOP is already taking action, Mr Leonard confirmed: “We are working with the NHS and other optical bodies to ensure that these challenges can be met, through better commissioning of community services and improvements in IT connectivity for optometrists.”
So just as Mr Burt MP encouraged those present at 100% Optical last month to drive reform, it seems that there is no time like the present for practitioners to begin, and continue, their work in ensuring that eye health is high on local agendas.