David O’Sullivan receives OBE

OT  heard from the chief optometric adviser to the Welsh Government on being included in the King’s Honours List, Optometry Contract Reform, and expanding services

For David O'Sullivan, chief optometric adviser to the Welsh Government, the news that he would be made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) was met with an overwhelming sense of surprise.

“It was a big honour for myself and the family, and wider in the profession as well. From an eye care perspective, we don’t tend to see so much recognition, so being able to highlight the profession is a significant event,” he said.

O’Sullivan was recognised in the King’s New Year Honours List 2024 for services to eye care in Wales.

OT spoke with O’Sullivan to hear more about his work in a time of change for optometry in Wales.

With a background as an optometrist, O’Sullivan provides professional advice and support to the Welsh Government.

O’Sullivan described the “forward-thinking” approach of colleagues across Wales, including health boards, the Welsh Government and ministers.

Being able to highlight the profession is a significant event


Reflecting on key projects, he highlighted: “The Future Approach for Optometry Services is the one that stands out – that is how we’ve been able to develop Optometry Contract Reform.” 

He continued: “That was a joint piece of work that started back in 2019. We brought all the stakeholders together across Wales to look at what the future of optometry should look like. If you started with a blank piece of paper; what would it look like? What would you develop?”

Reflecting on his entry into optometry, qualifying from Glasgow Caledonian University in 1996, O’Sullivan shared: “What attracted me to the profession, as I’m sure is the case for many of my colleagues across the UK, is that it is a healthcare profession.”

“What optometrists and dispensing opticians have to offer in terms of those clinical aspects and support for patients, what we all strive for, is to reduce unnecessary sight loss,” he said. “That has certainly been embraced in Wales.”

"That is part of the Optometry Contract Reform; we need to evolve. We need to change as a profession. The clinical space is absolutely where we should be as professionals, and what attracted us to the position in the first place,” O’Sullivan explained.

The clinical space is absolutely where we should be as professionals, and what attracted us to the position in the first place


Reflecting on the effect of the reforms, he told OT: “We are introducing more pathways to use those skills that we’ve been trained for, and to take that further; aligning with the additional qualifications and post graduate qualifications from the College of Optometrists.”

There has been a drive from eye care professionals to work at the top of their professional licence and provide these clinical services.

“From my perspective, being able to steer that and influence some of that has been a real privilege and part of the position I hold within Welsh Government. It has been great to be a part of that change in Wales,” O’Sullivan reflected.

Asked for his perspective on what comes next, he shared: “We want to expand those services. This is just the start of a journey. We need to embed the services that we are producing in contract reform, but then look to how we improve those and expand.”