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The changing roles of optometry

Trio of experts debated the role that optometrists may have in eye care in the future

22 Feb 2018 by Emily McCormick

“There will be more changes to the profession over the next 10 years than there have been in the last 30 years,” pledged co-founder of Specsavers, Doug Perkins, as he opened a lecture on the Main Stage at 100% Optical (27–29 January).

Debating the question Who will do what, where?, Mr Perkins was joined on stage by the AOP’s clinical advisor, Trevor Warburton, and president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Mike Burdon.

Sharing his view first, Mr Perkins said that these changes would be partly brought in due to “external forces that we can’t do anything about.” “But they will be instrumental,” he added. 

Separating the “forces of change” into three arenas, Mr Perkins discussed each of the political, economical and social drives that he felt would impact the profession and why over the coming years.

Mr Perkins highlighted that advancing technology, such as optical coherence tomography, would allow optometrists to take on a more clinical role. “And when the NHS is struggling as it is, why wouldn’t we?,” he said. 

Comparing the England eye care model to that of its counterparts in Scotland and Wales, Mr Perkins express concern at the “inconsistent polices” that exist.  

He concluded that collaboration would be key for the profession during this period of change. “This is a must do strategy, we can’t afford not to work together. We also can’t wait for change, it is already happening around us so we must take action to change things for the better.” 

In the ophthalmology corner

Taking to the podium next was president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Mike Burdon, who said he agreed with much of what Mr Perkins had said, but expressed that the challenge for him was how this change will happen in “a cash limited society.” 

Mr Burdon identified the appropriate delegation of responsibly is a key factor for change. 

“Most of the procedures that we do, such as cataracts and glaucoma, are cost effective and worthwhile,” he said, adding: “This implies that we need more resources to screen, diagnose and treat, and in doing so we need to make sure that the most appropriate people are doing the most appropriate tasks at the most appropriate time.”

“We do things that no one who has trained for 12 years needs to do,” he admitted. 

However, he stated that the ‘who’ is “very much still being debated.”

A final stand 

Last to take to the podium was optometrist and AOP clinical advisor, Trevor Warburton. 

Sharing his aspirations for optometry over the next decade, for Mr Warburton it is about offering a wider portfolio of care in the community and educating patients about services. 

“In 10 years we want a significant number of people who enter secondary care settings to be entering our setting instead. More care can and should be provided in the optical setting, and if it is I see practices becoming hubs of care in the community,” he said. 

Focusing on what optometrists can do to help this happen, Mr Warburton highlighted the need for higher qualifications. 

He added that “as optometrists, we need to step it up a gear and sort out the issue that so people many think we are based around the sale of spectacles.” 

“We need to educate patients about this,” he stressed. 

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