The changing face of optics

Optometrist and co-founder of Specsavers, Doug Perkins, spoke exclusively to OT  about his vision for optics in the future

Doug Perkins

Speaking to OT about the future of optometry ahead of his talk at 100% Optical in February, optometrist and co-founder of Specsavers, Doug Perkins warned: “Optometry has not changed enough and its relationships with doctors and with the hospital eye services is just about the same as it was 50 years ago, which is very disappointing.” 

Speaking frankly, Mr Perkins stated that a lot of the challenges that optometry is now facing, such as the commissioning of enhanced services, is due to this lack of development, which “is now coming back to bite us,” he said. 

Questioning whether ophthalmology “belongs in hospital anyway,” Mr Perkins shared how the majority of ophthalmology services in the US and Australia “take place in a stress-free environment in the community itself,” something which works effectively for the patient and the practitioner in those countries. 

Mr Perkins shared that he feels that optometry is currently at a crossroads and that the profession’s actions now will dictate what it looks like in the future. He warned: “If the last 10 years are repeated in the next 10 years, I see us becoming more retail optics at the lower level. However, if we aspire to be as good as they are in Australia and the US, we have got to make some commitments now.”

These commitments included optometrists “upgrading” their skills and becoming accredited, educated and experienced in delivering enhanced optical services, the optometrist stressed.  

“That needs to be done now,” he said, adding: “If we wait for clinical commissioning groups to drive this change, it may never happen.”

Mr Perkins highlighted: “The vision we are after quite plainly is to become the GP of the eyes. The model that we are now with is not delivering.” 

He closed: “We are not going to set the world of ophthalmology alight, but we can take optometry forward – that is our whole objective of what we are offering.”