Irish optometrists return to work

Optical practices in the Republic of Ireland opened on Monday 18 May, with patients urged to attend

Kerril Hickey in test room

Optometrists in the Republic of Ireland have returned to work, with practices reopening from Monday 18 May.

Urgent and non-urgent services, including routine eye exams, are now available to patients in Ireland. Those with eye care needs are being encouraged to attend their practices, after calling ahead. All clinically necessary tests are available.

Safety is a priority as Irish optometrists begin their journey back to practice, with social distancing measures and other precautions being strictly followed.

Adaptations to ensure patient and staff safety include restricted numbers of patients being allowed in practices, contact with equipment being minimised and immediately sterilised after use, and personal protective equipment (PPE) being used for close examinations.

Kerril Hickey outside store
Specsavers Ireland chairman, Kerril Hickey, outside his Navan practice

Ireland has had just over 1500 deaths related to coronavirus (COVID-19), with around 24,000 confirmed cases at the time of writing.

Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) president, Patricia Dunphy, said stretched GPs have increasingly been referring cases to optometrists during the COVID-19 lockdown, and emphasised that the profession was available to help alleviate pressures on other areas of healthcare.

The AOI is pushing for optometrists to be given prescribing rights, in order to streamline services. Ms Dunphy said: “There are a number of conditions where an optometrist completes an examination and makes a diagnosis but must then refer the patient back to the GP for their prescription. This includes widely used topical antibiotics for conjunctivitis, blepharitis and removal of corneal foreign bodies.”

She added: “We are also now in the hay fever period of the year. Optometrists are already suitably qualified to fast-track this.”

Specsavers has over 60 optical practices in Ireland. The company’s Ireland chairman, Kerril Hickey, welcomed the reopening: “We are delighted that our stores are reopening and we want to assure everyone that our number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of all our customers and colleagues, both in the test rooms and in the rest of our stores.

“When you are passionate about helping people and offering great customer experiences, it is tough to have to suspend routine tests and consultations. However, it was the right decision for us to take in order to protect our communities during the pandemic.”

OT  asks... In light of Irish optometrists returning to work, do you think it’s time for UK optical practices to fully reopen too?
  • No, it’s too soon

    349 63%
  • Yes, they should follow suit

    180 32%
  • I’m undecided

    20 3%