An eye on ageing

The eye care sector has a lot of support to give to an ageing population facing the challenges of AMD, glaucoma and cataract, writes Henrietta Alderman

Henrietta Alderman

There is no doubt that the ageing population will have a significant effect on optometry practice, as it will on the NHS generally.

Many more people will need vision correction, which in many ways is a great opportunity for optics. Good vision can often be the ‘make or break’ for enjoying independence in older life, and optometrists make a difference to lives every day simply by prescribing the right vision correction options. 

But many more patients will also be living with eye disease and require interventions for eye disease. For example, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists predicts in its Way Forward reports that by 2035 there will be around 50% more cataract operations than in 2015, glaucoma cases will be up by 44%, and both age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease will have increased by nearly 60%.

And many patients will be living with other conditions, including dementia, which for practices means additional time in the consulting room or indeed in domiciliary visits to patients’ homes and to care homes. The AOP provides a huge resource of archived CET, plus lots of relevant articles to help members keep current or reinforce best practice. And our patient leaflets, such as top tips for healthy eyes, will help to reinforce the wider health messages, relevant to maintaining healthy eyes, to patients.

Driving and vision has been much in the news, on the agenda of our Policy Committee and an active thread in the forums. At the May Policy Committee meeting we agreed a driving and vision position paper and refined our advice to members. We believe that drivers themselves should retain the primary legal responsibility to report their condition to the DVLA, but we want members to feel supported in reporting those who refuse to act on their advice and could be putting members of the public at risk.

"The AOP provides a huge resource of archived CET, plus lots of relevant articles to help members keep current or reinforce best practice"

But this is not a topic restricted just to the ageing eye or indeed restricted to the eye alone, as in an older person there can be multiple health concerns, of which the eyes are just one. Although there are many views within the profession on how to take this forward, one area without question is the need to educate the public to have regular eye tests – the Voice of Optometry panel will assist the AOP to achieve this.

One thing is for sure: the AOP is incredibly fortunate to have excellent clinicians to ensure that the interests of patients and optometry are taken forward. This month's AGM marked the end of the chairmanship of Kevin Thompson, who has been a dedicated champion of the AOP and its members for many years. He handed the reins into the capable hands of Mike George who welcomed returning Council members and the new Council members to their first meeting. And a huge thanks to those who did not return this time for all they have done to take AOP forward.